Praise to the Man Even with 40 Wives and Teenage Brides

It makes for compelling headlines, “Mormon Church Admits For First Time That Founder Joseph Smith Had A 14-Year-Old Bride,” and “Mormon Church Finally Admits Founder Joseph Smith was Polygamist with 40 Wives.”

These headlines and the accompanying articles were written in response to the “polygamy” essays published by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo and Plural Marriage and Families in Early Utah.

Most who engaged with and shared the stories in the Huffington Post, the Telegraph and many other outlets gave no thought to significant linguistic nuances that make the headline factually problematic.

Mormon History Was Never Hidden

For instance, the word, “admits,” is charged with accusation that there had been a previous denial of some kind. On the contrary. Off the top of my head I can think of three definitive declarations that attest to the practice of polygamy early in church history: Section 132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a 1905 Improvement Era article by Prophet Joseph F. Smith, and a 1992 Ensign article.

In fact, being a student of Joseph Smith and history, I learned of these 14-year-old “brides” (another baggage-laden word) and 30-40 wives in my early twenties as a student at Brigham Young University, as I combed through journals and other documents in a quest to get to know and understand Joseph Smith better.

The events and history of Joseph Smith’s marriage to teenage and other brides have been well known and documented within available resources since there were accounts written of the event way back in history. All anyone had to do was look… and some did.

The information has been readily available for anyone to read. For example, Richard Bushman, in his book, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, has attempted to write more objective historical accounts of Joseph Smith and has included more difficult events in his history. Thanks to Bushman, the names of Joseph’s wives have rested on thousands of Mormon bookshelves since its publication in 2005.

Internet reach and information ease fluidity resulting in the availability and sharability of history have put the Church in the new and sometimes uncomfortable position of having to clarify interpretations of events, statements and doctrines when it would rather testify.

Who, Really, Was Joseph Smith?


Two friends have called me with concerns about the Church’s recently published polygamy essays. Many more have expressed concern on social media. Most of the concerns center around the idea that there is circumstantial evidence that Joseph Smith was at least lecherous and may be a fraud, and therefore, the Church that they have loved and defended may be indefensible.

Browsing, especially secondary sources, with little regard for context, could easily yield the conclusion that Joseph Smith had some fatal flaws that would call into question his commission as a prophet of God.

Based on the calls I received and the social activity, I asked a Stake President friend if he had seen any fallout from the polygamy essays. He told me that he had not but that he had been in meetings with some stake members who had bypassed their bishop due to perception concerns and met with him to discuss their misgivings about Joseph Smith and polygamy. In one of the meetings my friend met with a woman who knew him well. After hearing her concerns he told her this story:

“Kelly, a few years ago when I was the bishop, I was counseling with a couple that was on the verge of divorce. Unfortunately, I was unable to change their course and before long, they ended their marriage.

You need to get to know the prophet Joseph Smith as well as you know me. Once you do, I think your concerns will evaporate and you will probably end up with certainty in the opposite direction.

During one particular meeting with the husband I gently rebuked him for shirking his priesthood duties and called on him to do better. He did not take it well. Within a week he had spread false rumors to three neighbor couples that I had been having an affair and that he had proof.

Two of the neighbors approached me to tell me about what he had said. One told me in the presence of my wife who laughed out loud. They knew me. They knew him. No evidence ever came forward. The rumors were discredited. But think about that last couple for a minute. They did not know me as well as the first two did. Now I am the stake president. There may be lingering doubt in their minds because 1. they don’t know me, and 2. they don’t know him or the circumstances. You know me, Kelly. Do you think I did that?”

She responded that she knew he had not done that. My friend then said, “You need to get to know the prophet Joseph Smith as well as you know me. Once you do, I think your concerns will evaporate and you will probably end up with certainty in the opposite direction.”

The Astonishing Prophecy

One of the most accurate and well-fulfilled prophecies of the restoration was stated by Moroni as reported by Joseph Smith. The prophecy states,


“God had a work for me [Joseph] to do; and that my name should be had for good and evil among all nations, kindreds, and tongues, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.”

In the wake of the polygamy essays and the derivative secular commentary, I witnessed tweet after tweet from my tweetdeck where I track all twitter activity LDS and Mormon, I was watching the evil part of the prophecy’s fulfillment. About every five seconds a tweet would hit the feed that would disparage Joseph Smith, sometimes with several vulgarities attached. Well known anti-mormons were giddy, though a little envious that they were no longer the loudest voices disparaging Joseph Smith. Interestingly, as if anticipating member response, many career dissenter posts centered around criticizing spiritual evidence for the prophet as frenzied emotion and nothing more.

Four considerations

It may be astonishing to some, and they may think me delusional, dishonest or brainwashed, but I can look at all of the evidence, including Joseph Smith’s marriage to a “14-year-old bride,” and still say without hesitation that his claims are truthful. That he saw the heavenly beings he said he saw and that the Book of Mormon is divine scripture and his role in bringing it forth is reported accurately.

Of the many intervening considerations that have allowed me to get to that conclusion in the face of disparaging and difficult circumstantial evidence, four have been the most useful: deep historical study of primary sources; the return of prodigals; the Book of Mormon; and, spiritual work.

Deep Historical Study

Most of the interactions I have with people hostile to Joseph Smith and the Church end up with them citing secondary sources and me quoting from more primary sources.

There really is no such thing as an objectively written historical account of anything. Every historian approaches history writing with philosophical, political, psychological and experiential baggage. Some of the baggage is easily detectable and can be discounted. It is disingenuous or naïve for a student of history to rely on sources without good baggage investigation.

This goes for sources that both positively and negatively speak of Joseph Smith. Having read thousands of pages of original and secondary historical accounts of Joseph Smith, independent of any spiritual conviction, I conclude that 1) he was truthful in his account of his own history; 2) those closest to him predominantly verified his divinely appointed mission, even when they had personal falling-outs with him; 3) though admittedly imperfect with common human foibles (some of which made it to scripture), he was good; 4) he loved God more than his own life and position. However, non-spiritual conclusions are insufficient.

Why Would They Come Back?

Many people who knew Joseph Smith well and disassociated themselves with him came back later. Two of note are Joseph Smith’s contemporary, William W. Phelps, and a modern historian, Don Bradley.


Phelps’ case is noteworthy because he knew Joseph Smith intimately. He knew about polygamy. In fact, he testified that he had been in attendance when Joseph Smith received a key revelation on polygamy. He knew about every one of Joseph Smith’s problems, weaknesses and strengths. He had been Joseph Smith’s friend, clerk and ghost writer during the 1830’s and early 1840’s.

In 1838, Phelps was one of many who testified against Joseph Smith and others that led to their brutal Missouri imprisonment in 1839. His testimony against the prophet led to his excommunication in March 1839.

Then follows one of the most tender, sweetest reconciliations in church history. With full knowledge of Joseph Smith’s character, proclivities and even vices, Phelps pleaded for forgiveness and asked for rebaptism. One particular line in his letter written from Dayton, Ohio, on June 29th, 1840, stands out to me,

“I will repent and live, and ask my old brethren to forgive me, and though they chasten me to death, yet I will die with them, for their God is my God. The least place with them is enough for me, yea, it is bigger and better than all Babylon.”

Really? The least place and association with the man who had 40 wives and teenage brides was better than all Babylon? Phelps was an intelligent, educated, wealthy man who would opt for death with the Saints and Joseph Smith over any other life.

Joseph Smith’s response to Phelps is historical gold and can be read at

Approximately one month after Joseph Smith was martyred, Phelps penned the hymn, Praise to the Man that includes the lines,

“Praise to his memory, he died as a martyr. Honored and blest be his ever great name… Millions shall know brother Joseph again.”

What did Phelps know. What kept him coming back?

Returning to Joseph in our Time

bradley_090112~2Don Bradley is a modern historian educated at both Brigham Young University and Utah State University. He began his serious study of church history as a 17-year-old at Brigham Young University. Like Phelps, he got to know Joseph Smith well. His faith crisis began as items of church history seemed unsavory.

Specifically, they are not what he had heard before and not what fit the narrative he had come to expect. The other problem was that he rejected all other ways of knowing than scientific, historical inquiry.

Don asked to have his name removed from the records of the Church. As with Phelps, there was no reason to ever return. He was not disinterested or agnostic. He was sure that the Church, and specifically Joseph Smith, were frauds.

His return began in small, incremental steps. The first step was to acknowledge that the Church did good in the world. The second was to acknowledge that there are other ways of knowing, that knowledge gained through spiritual means was legitimate knowledge.

The third step was that he kept digging into church history through difficult things and finally arrived at what he calls “gold,” really good things. One of the keys Don speaks of is that he ceased forcing God into a construct that he had created.

Questioning also changed. The questions Don asked at the beginning as part of his research were cynical questions like, “Why did Joseph Smith do this thing? What was in it for him?” Those questions often yielded poor answers and gave an impoverished view of Joseph Smith. The cynical narrative was inadequate for historical inquiry. He points out that with any relationship, if you are continuously asking “what’s in it for them?”, you will end up with a poor relationship.

Like Phelps, Don Bradley reconciled with Joseph Smith. Like Phelps, he knows Joseph Smith well and opts to stay at his side after testifying against him for a period of time.

The experiences of these men and many like them have caused me to wonder and have stood in the way of my departure as I have had occasional and sometimes serious doubts and concerns when I have gone so far as to say, “do I need to seek truth elsewhere?”. Their experiences have effectively challenged me to shelve my doubts for a time until further light comes, which it always has.

The Book of Mormon

Dissenters have spent careers attempting to discredit the Book of Mormon. Terryl Givens, in his book, By The Hand of Mormon, outlines several of these along with thoughtful answers. I will be the first to say that there is not adequate resolution to all challenges, and I would add that none of the challenges is a smoking gun either. I would further say that there is strong, positive evidence that has no adequate answer from critics. Finally, the truth of the Book of Mormon will not be revealed through historical inquiry.

Each believer in the truth of the book has come to that conclusion a different way. Missionaries are fond of applying a standard test. The test holds up pretty well generally, but it is not how it happened for me and thousands of others. The test is that you read the book then apply Moroni 10:3-5, which says that if you pray about the contents of the book, especially about the accounts of the Lord Jesus Christ whom the book is about, and pray with sincerity and an open mind and heart, God will confirm that the contents of the book are true through the power of the Holy Ghost.

For me, the last part happened, but it did not take a prayer. In fact, I did not get through First Nephi without a strong, powerful spiritual witness that the contents of the book originated with God and were delivered through prophets. It would have been ludicrous for me to ask the question of God when he had already given the answer multiple times through my reading of it.

This is not true for everyone. Clayton Christensen’s experience was much more laborious and perhaps more intense. He records,

Clay Christensen

“I decided that I would commit every evening from 11 to 12 o’clock to reading the Book of Mormon to find out if it was true. I wondered if I dared spend that much time, because I was in a very demanding academic program, studying applied econometrics, and I was going to try to finish the program in two years, whereas most of the people in the program finished it in three, and I just didn’t know if I could afford allocating an hour a day to this effort. But nonetheless I did, and I began at 11:00 by kneeling in prayer by the chair by that heater, and I prayed out loud. I told God how desperate I was to find out if this was a true book, and I told Him that if He would reveal to me that it was true, that I then intended to dedicate my life to building this kingdom. And I told Him if it wasn’t true that I needed to know that for certain, too, because then I would dedicate my life to finding out what was true. Then I would sit in the chair, and I read the first page of the Book of Mormon, and when I got down to the bottom of the page, I stopped, and I thought about what I had read on that page, and I asked myself, “Could this have been written by a Charlatan who was trying to deceive people, or was this really written by a prophet of God? And what did it mean for me in my life?” And then I put the book down and knelt in prayer and verbally asked God again, “Please tell me if this is a true book.” Then I would sit in the chair and pick up the book and turn the page and read another page, pause at the bottom, and do the same thing. I did this for an hour every night, night after night in that cold, damp room, at the Queen’s College Oxford.

By the time I got to the chapters at the end of 2nd Nephi, one evening when I said my prayer and sat in my chair and opened the book, all of a sudden there came into that room a beautiful, warm, loving spirit that just surrounded me and permeated my soul, and enveloped me in a feeling of love that I just had not imagined I could feel. And I began to cry, and I didn’t want to stop crying because as I looked through my tears at the words in the Book of Mormon, I could see truth in those words that I never imagined I could comprehend before. And I could see the glories of eternity and I could see what God had in store for me as one of His sons. And I didn’t want to stop crying. That spirit stayed with me the whole hour, and then every evening as I prayed and sat with the Book of Mormon by the fireplace in my room, that same spirit returned and it changed my heart and my life forever.”

Others receive what we call a witness after years of study. They shelve doubts for a time and cling to things such as the witnesses of others or their own witnesses of other things than the Book of Mormon.

Truthfully, the Book of Mormon is the number one, enormous factor in people’s consideration to join, leave or remain in the church. Church leadership has consistently doubled down on the truthfulness of the Book of Mormon. Their implicit argument is that the church stands and falls on its truth claim. For me, the logical, historical and textual evidence were sufficient to create an opening wide enough for there to be a profound spiritual witness when one was sought.

By logical implication, it can be concluded that the man who translated it and brought it to light is a prophet as claimed. But logical implication is insufficient.

Spiritual work

It takes significant hubris and arrogance to proclaim that knowledge received from spiritual sources originates in the person having those experiences. Revelation as epistemology works differently than empiricism. Empiricism is the theory that knowledge is derived from sensory experience and that the senses include the five senses. It gave rise to experimental science and scientific method.

The two largest differences between revelation as a way to know and empiricism as a way to know is that revelation requires a moral agent, and the vehicle for revelation, the Holy Spirit, refuses to be pinned down. In explaining this to Nicodemus, Jesus said, “The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou hearest the sound thereof, but canst not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit.” Empiricism cares nothing for morality and only accepts things that can be pinned down and therefore repeated on schedule and independently verified. A rejection of either of these is foolish when seeking truth.

Getting to know Joseph Smith was necessary for me to get to a point where revelation would be able to teach and verify. I used all of the academic tools I had learned over the years. I am skeptical by nature and used reason, logic and deconstruction to understand Joseph Smith and church history.

As with the Book of Mormon, my study had created an opening through which the Spirit could do its work. I asked for understanding, verification, and direction. My pleas were a lot like Clayton Christensen’s, and the answer I received was similar to his.

The picture at the top of this article was originally painted by Jeff Hein and is titled “Mob.” It captures the turning of a mob from violent and hostile to at least neutral as mob members approached Joseph Smith. The symbolism of that event is remarkable.

I praise Joseph Smith’s name. I am certain of his accounts of key events that occurred during the formation of the Church. Like William Phelps, there is no other place I would want to be than at his side. I say this having knowledge of his 30 – 40 wives, teen brides and marriages to married women. I say this knowing of his weaknesses and imperfections.

When hymn 27 Praise to the Man in the LDS hymn book is sung, I sing loud and strong and often weep when I consider the love I have for Joseph Smith.

As with the Church, I do not give a historical account in my recommendation of Joseph Smith. I witness of him and recommend him to you as one who knows him and has enjoyed spiritual manifestations regarding his life and mission. I invite you to learn, prove and hold fast to that which is good.

David is a regular contributor at He is the author of the logic book, "Joseph Spider and the Fallacy Farm," father of five and ranks mountain biking and spending time with his wife close to breathing and love when it comes to life essentials.
  • Ken

    Marriage in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since its conception on April 6, 1830 was that a man should have only one wife.
    15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
    16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;
    17 And that it might be filled with the measure of man, according to his creation before the world was made.
    (Doctrine and Covenants | Section 49:15 – 17) Revelation given March 1831

    Note that “before the world was made “this law of marriage was ordained and it stated that a man was to have only “one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh.” If that wasn’t enough clarity section 101 on “Marriage” was added to the Doctrine and Covenants in 1835 and accepted by competent assemblies or conferences of the Church as scripture!

    4. All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither Is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that all persons who exercise control over their fellow beings, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin. (D&C 101: 4) 1835

    It is my belief, personal witness and testimony that the Prophet Joseph Smith never engaged (secretly or otherwise) in the doctrine of “plurality of wives” but fought against it his whole life! He never engaged in lies or deception when it came to this moral law of having only “one wife” as the scriptures presented here so testify of in establishing God’s pattern for marriage from “before the world was made.” Everything ever said by others in opposing God’s moral law is and was fabricated lies, doctored histories; and those who are and have promoted such will be held accountable themselves and will have to answer to God for their behavior.

    On May 26, 1844 Joseph Smith said, one month before he was murdered June 27, 1844: “What a thing for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago” (History of the Church Vol.6, p.408-412 Sunday, May 26, 1844).

    Do you believe that statement? I do! What took place before and after the Prophet was killed with some members of the Church as having “plural wives” does not constitute moral integrity and goes against the very scriptures quoted

    All the evidence the Church has today about the Prophet Joseph Smith as having more than one wife is all “second hand testimony,” “falsified affidavits” and “doctored histories,” nothing from Joseph’s own lips but only the truth of what he said a month before he was murdered.

  • CanofSand

    That’s… not really an argument. I mean, there’s no sure logical foundation from you, here. It’s just sophistry. Word games. And I’m saying this as someone who hasn’t gone to any church in years.

  • Rico

    Interestingly, in every discussion of Mormon polygamy by those defending it, one person is conveniently ignored: JESUS. Did Jesus have anything to say about marriage in the New Testament? If so, what was it?

    “And I say unto you, Whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall MARRY ANOTHER, committeth adultery: and whoso marrieth her which is put away doth commit adultery.” (Matthew 19:9).

    What does this scripture mean? Any man who divorces his spouse and MARRIES ANOTHER is guilty of adultery. Any man who MARRIES a woman who had a divorce commits adultery. Keep this two points in mind. Adultery is not only committed by going to bed with someone else not your spouse. Marrying another while you are still married and marrying another who is still married are both acts of adultery according to Jesus.

    Just because JS did not consummate his marriage with other women, that doesn’t justify any Mormon apologist for saying he is not an adulterer. Jesus is God; neither JS nor those defending his adulterous acts are. MARRYING ANOTHER is what constitutes adultery if you are already married. Even if the entire polygamous Mormon community during Joseph’s era failed to see this, that changes nothing.

    THEREFORE, if married couples who later divorce are NOT allowed to remarry, how much more can men or women who remain married be not allowed to MARRY ANOTHER? Mormon polygamy is nothing more than REMARRIAGE by married men and women with other spouses. It is adultery as long as we don’t ignore the hard teachings of Jesus. In fact, it is SERIAL ADULTERY as it repeatedly violates what Jesus clearly taught.

    And it is blasphemy since it was carried out in the name of Jesus when his actual teaching on the subject directly opposes it.

    • CanofSand

      You talk about ignoring and then ignore a key part of the verse you quote.

      “put away”

      Completely changes the verse’s implications here and destroys your argument. Not to mention the polygamy in the Old Testament which was not viewed as sinful.

      “Putting away” one’s wife is a reference to divorce – and come on, you know it. This is common knowledge. It has nothing to do with polygamy / plural marriage. So if you want to take a strict interpretation of that verse so you can attack a religion with it, you may try to do so, but you’d end up condemning not just the LDS Church but, say, 99% of all Christians who don’t view it as a complete ban on divorce but rather condemnation of divorce for inappropriate reasons (including whatever church you go to, most likely, if any).

  • Lane

    Polygamy is only from god if god hated women. He doesn’t. All Mormon men who get married in the temple are mentally abusive to their wives. They expect their wives to believe that they will have tons of wives for eternity while they get nothing. Absolutely horrible! When my mother was told her heart was giving out and she would die soon, her first comment was” do you think your dad has already got more wives”? She started sobbing and said “what if he doesn’t want me anymore”? My dad had died ten years prior. Abusive!!!!!!!!

    • Derek

      Did your father believe and did he teach your mother that temple marriage meant that he would have multiple wives in the eternities? If so, he made that up out of whole cloth. Nowhere is that teaching found in the temple ordinances or in the official teachings of the Church.

  • Noel

    I am often puzzled how Mormons try to give Joseph Smith a pass on plural marriage and polyandry. I remember reading a quote from William Clayton’s diary (a secretary of Smith’s) where he talked about his first wife’s problems with Clayton taking a second wife. Smith’s response was “You have a right to all you can get”. Perhaps one of the major challenges to Smith;s claim of being a prophet was the Book of Abraham. Nothing in the fac in the printed version or the material shows it has anything to do with Abraham. So LDS apologists come up with strange hypothesis such as the original is still missing, the papyri was a catalyst or it was just inspired midrash.

  • James Green

    My 2nd Great-Grandfather was William Walker. His Father was wounded at Hans Mill and later died. William was hired to manage the Nauvoo mansion house with the Prophet Joseph’s family, where he lived for 2 years.
    He knew the Prophet very well. His Sister Lucy Walker became one of the Wives of Joseph. In fact, she was the last living Wife of the Prophet and my Grandparents met her. Both William and Lucy spoke of Joseph Smith Jr in the most respectful and positive ways. If there had been improprieties or questions, they would have been mentioned. But there is nothing in all their writings but praise and honor for this great man. William went on to arrive in the Salt Lake Valley with Brigham Young on the first day of the Pioneers descent into the valley. He helped settle Utah, and served as a missionary to South Africa, where he began the work there. He brought back more than a hundred converts who he helped emigrate to the SL Valley to join the Saints. If he had witnessed misdeeds by Joseph Smith I’m certain he would not have sacrificed so much for building up the Kingdom. His life and testimony of Joseph Smith stand as a witness to me, his direct posterity, of the divine calling the Prophet received in restoring the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the earth. Captain Jim Green, Former Naval Officer and Aviator, Retired United Airlines Pilot, & University Professor

  • Maria M. Aguayo’Bishop

    Saludos! No me voy a disculpar por escribir en español, aunque vivo en Mesa, Az… Se que hay muchos líderes que hablan y escriben español muy bien, asi es que, continuaré escribiendo en mi bello y romántico idioma, mi hermoso testimonio acerca del maravilloso Libro de Mormón. En lo smomentos mas tristes de mi vida, que mi santa madre fue investida brutalemte por un carro ocasionandole la muerte un dia domingo, cuando caminaba hacia la iglesia que ella era muy devota, y fiel. Aún con sus creencias muy firmes, ella me decía que oraba al Padre celestial para que le permiitiera tener con ella a sus once hijos por toda la eternidad. Como no estaba muy activa en ninguna congregación, pues no tenia respuestas espituales para ayudarla. Una semana después de su repentina muerte, tuve un sueño con mi madre. Estaba vestida muy elegante y llevaba un sobrero hermoso. Paseaba a la orilla de un jardín hermoso, con muchas flores lilas. Era bello, y ella apuntaba hacia los flores, y me decía que buscara la Iglesia de Jesucristo. Eso ocurrió unas cuantas veces. Su partida fue un 31 de enero de 1982 a las 9:00 am. en Barranquitas, Puerto Rico. Pasaron unos cuantos meses, y ni yo, y ni mi familia podíamos reponernos a su partida tan triste. Ella muy joven, tenía 62 años de edad. En julio de 1982, trabajaba en una Boutique, y llegaron dos apuestos hombres a hacer negocios, y me preguntaron porque estaba llorando. Yo les conte la historia, Ellos me preguntaron que si yo queria estar con mi madre por toda la eternidad. Me les quedé mirando muy atenta. Ellos me hablaron del Libro de Mormón, sobre Jose Smith. Los envié a mi casa, para que hablaran con mis hijos, pues mis hijos estudiaban en un colegio católico, y tenian muchas preguntas que nunca se las contestaron, hasta este dia, que estos hermanos les hablaron del Plan de Salvación. A la semana siguiente llegaron dos Misioneros y nos enseñaron las charlas. Cada charla yo podia sentir el Espiritu de Dios. Tan es asi, que una madrugada, no bien puse mi cabeza en la almohada para dormir escuché una voz apacible que me decía que leyera 1 Nef:13, y no muy contenta, pues me invadió una pesadez, volvieron a decirme que me levantara, orara y leyera esa escritura. Leí ese capítulo, y en la madrugada los rayos del sol entraron por la ventana e iluminaron El Libro de Mormón. LLamé a Los Misioneros me bautiaron. La primera vez, que entramos a la capilla recién construída y dedicada, en el estrado estaban dos búcaros con las mismas flores lilas que vi en mi sueño. Tengo muchos testimonios de esta Iglesia, donde he aprendido a llevar Los Mandamientos, servir y amar a los demás, como manda Jesucristo. He sufrido desprecios de la familia, me han dejado de hablar amistades ignorantes, pero un testimonio es un testimonio, vino desde lo alto. No tengo ninguna duda, las dudas vienen de Satanás, el peor enemigo de Jesucristo. Saben porqué, por que no tengo dudas, porque ORO constantemente,\ de rodillas. Mi fe está en el Señor, y no en el brazo de la carne. Las profecías no fallan. Los últimos días miles abandonaran la Iglesia de Jesucristo. Yo oro a mi Señor que me aparte de los incrédulos, pues yo quiero vivir con El. Jose Smith fue un Profeta de Dios. El hizo convenios muy sagrados. Hermanos hay que orar con humildad, y con un corazon contrito para saber la verdad. Todos sus comentarios los leí con detenimiento, creo que tan solo un hermano oró para que Dios le revelara la verdad. Qué dichosos los que reciben el conocimiento, y lo ponen en práctica? Estoy sellada a mis padres, y casi toda mi familia. He trabajado como Obrera en diferentes Templos, y siento gozo y paz por ser miembro de la única iglesia verdadera sobre la faz de la tierra. Hay dos cosas. Tantas iglesias salieron de una, y ésta la iglesia de Jesucristo fue por revelación. Me quedo donde aprendo a amar , servir y llevar los mandamientos. A donde voy a ir, no hay otra iglesia?_ Les dejo mi humilde testimonio, en el dulce nombre de nuestro Señor Jesucristo. Amen!

  • Carrie

    In my studies I can see that the most influential men in the bible and then including Joseph Smith and latter day prophets were asked to participate in plural marriage. This tells me that if men are righteous they are more likely to marry plurally. So if these are the men who are most likely going to the celestial kingdom I must assume that accepting polygyny is certainly a prerequisite. If this is so then how does gender equality fit in? So I looked to examples of our Mormon pioneers. What I saw was that the men were run ragged trying to provide for all these families and that the women rather than clinging to their husbands clung to their children. Because giving of oneself fully is complicated when man is giving fully to more than one wife. Plus the women more often than not had to find ways to provide also. Not only were they alone in raising their children but also adding to the mans role of providing. That’s a lot of responsibility on the women involved in plural marriage. And I can’t even see it as a test of Abrahamic preportion because IT DIDN’T END. They don’t get rest from this trial. They are eternally living in polygamist families forever. Where is God’s love for women here? If our divine role as women is to be that more emotional bunch then why so much disregard here? When they died they had a change of heart and were happy to be in plural marriages? So our emotions are bad? I would gladly share my husband if it meant saving another womans soul but I cannot deny that I wouldn’t wish it weren’t so and that he and I were as one without her. I think it is very cruel to ask sacrifice for eternity. Unless it is not sacrifice but the way it is meant to be? Why is man only Godly when he takes more than one wife? I enjoy my role as a mother. I take it VERY seriously. But in my heart I always thought that my role as a WOMAN was enough. That when my children are grown and I had done all I could do to guide and nurture them that I as a WOMAN would be purposeful. In the idea of polgyny I have no purpose as a woman who with a man becomes ONE. A womans purpose is soley bearing children. But children have their own agency. I can’t take all my worth based on my children. They will make their own decisions regardless of a mothers involvement. I just hope to have led them in the right direction. So how do I have my worth based on motherhood? You can’t even say that motherhood is equal to having the priesthood because motherhood can be given to every woman worthy or not. So I must assume that having children in general in the priority. I don’t know what to teach my children. My worry is that I have three beautiful girls who I can’t see having eternal worth as one woman. As a group sure. Women are important. All these talks about equal partnership in marriage are for the here and now. On the earth. We don’t know what its like in eternity. These talks are not for eternity. How can I give my life to a God that doesn’t show me how I fit in eternally? He has shown men but not women. I conclude like that in my post that we are here to serve men. And that we are less in light and intelligence. My heart breaks. I don’t know how to trust God when I feel betrayed. And I must feel that way because I lack in faith! Thats what we are always told! I feel stuck. I feel sad. And then I lash out at poor innocent people like you that I don’t even know because I have no one to talk to. I will work it out. I always do. In the meantime what I hear God tell me is to Wait and Stay. Stay with the gospel. And people say WHY DOES THIS EVEN MATTER? You are not asked to practice it! I say, if our forefathers and the fathers of our religion were asked to do this, why would not I wonder why? Why would I not look to them as an example of what it takes to be exalted? I see that plural marriage is indeed what it takes. A sacrifice for the eternities. And I think I might be happier as an angel without marriage. Not to mention that a husband must call his wifes name. This tells me that women are to go through their husbands to get to God. God doesn’t want to deal directly with me? Who knows. Are women here only as an accessory to help MEN reach Godliness? I hope not.

    • Gale

      My own experience has been that our salvation is highly individual, as is our worth. We have so little understanding of the eternal realm, but we know that the life that God enjoys is a fulness of joy. The details are not very important if we have faith in that. God has mandated certain behaviors at certain times in history according to the cultures and spiritual readiness of His children, and that’s all He holds us accountable for. My worth as a daughter of God is not any more dependent upon my husband than his worth is dependent upon me. And those who are not married still have their individual worth, and I assume, some who are married here might choose NOT to remain with a spouse in the celestial realm. As far as your husband calling you by name to celestial glory, you have the final right of negation. When he calls you, don’t answer.

      Also, 2/3 of the celestial kingdom is made up of exalted single souls. These people live an eternal life of joy and fulfillment, yet they are single. We are taught that anyone who wants to be eternally married and is worthy of exaltation will have that blessing through proxy temple ordinances, yet some are single in the celestial world. Perhaps they desire to be. God tells us that we will attain whatever we choose to receive. Teach your daughters that.

  • Billy

    Many of the conclusions you and others that you site here are the same or similar conclusions that I have come to myself, and for the same or similar reasons of questioning the topic. Your testimony is appreciated as it confirms and solidifies the source of my reasoning on the matter. This has happened many times over with me. I will be given clear logic and understanding of a seemingly controversial topic and through my prayers and studies of multiple sources, I come to certain understandings not given by man. Then, like now, I read, hear or see someone who have the exact understandings and come to those conclusions in the same manner. I know the source of the truth of what you wrote. Thank you for sharing.

  • JW

    I call shenanigans. While RSR acknowledges polygamy being practiced by JS, it barely skims the surface. Even Bushman has acknowledged that he didn’t cover the topic as much as he wished he would have. Certainly Bushman did not name every wife of JS. A quick search on a digital copy of RSR will demonstrate that. But, even if Bushman had, that doesn’t do justice to the stories of all these women and their individual experiences with JS. Even Todd Compton’s book on JS’s polygamy, “In Sacred Loneliness,” doesn’t supply every wife with the same amount of information or background (and it is 600+ pages long!). Good on you for doing your research, but if this issue had been widely known and taught in the church, it wouldn’t be making the news and it wouldn’t be causing nearly as many people to leave the church. The church’s official essay, as well as lessons taught in Sunday School, Priesthood/RS, and Seminary, is at very best a cursory glance into the extremely messy history that is JS’s polygamy.

  • Celia

    Are comments no longer allowed? My comment did not post.

  • Celia

    I have been a church member all my life and I have strived to do what I thought my Heavenly Father would have me do. A couple of years ago in the midst of trials hitting me from every side, I went to the church website to study and hopefully get some insight into my troubled mind. Somehow I came across the essay about Joseph Smith and the beginnings of polygamy. That essay is full of contradictions. The essay justified Joseph and other men lying to their wives, other members and those outside the church in the practice of polygamy. I was dumbfounded and upset. How can keeping secrets and using carefully worded denials be a part of the restoration of the Gospel? How can lying-by commission or omission-to your eternal companion be a part of God’s plan? God is not liar. God does not use deception to achieve his purposes. If God is a liar then he is not God. The scriptures tell us that God is unchangeable, that “his house is a house of order”. If a task requires deception then it is not of God. If a task requires you to deceive and hurt your spouse then that task is not of God.

    If we truly believe in agency then all, including females, must be able to choose for themselves. Deception removes the ability to make a proper choice. To be held accountable for our choices we must know what we are choosing. Emma and other wives where led to believe that their husbands were honest, true and faithful when, in fact, they were not. Emma’s agency was denied her because she did not make a choice based on full disclosure. Regardless of what some claim in these comments, adultry is committed when you have sex with someone other than your legal and lawful spouse. Women married to two men cannot just decide that she is the lawful wife of one when, in fact, she is not. If the person that you married and committed to, is living and you did not seek a divorce, you cannot legally marry someone else because you are already married. (In the journal of discourses Brigham Young does provide himself a convenient explanation for taking women already married to someone else but his statement raises so many other questions!)

    I have so many other issues with the concept of polygamy but first and foremost; I cannot fathom that the church website is excusing deception, divorce and polyandry. Truth is truth and it is unchanging and it applies to each of us individually. Truth is transparent. God does not need “secret combinations” to conceal his truth. God is not the author of lies.

    I can accept that Joseph made mistakes but I’m finding it hard to stomach that my religion is excusing one of the behaviors -honesty- that I’ve been taught was a fundamental element of being a follower of Christ. I know in my heart that deception is not, nor ever was, a part of God’s plan. Joseph Smith was human and had short-comings and The Great Deceiver of all knew and knows his and our, shortcomings.

    • Celia’s Reflection

      In your other post below you say: “I read all the time and there is not a great deal of information about polygamy.” So, there is not a great deal on polygamy, except when you go to to “get some insight into my troubled mind. Somehow I came across the essay about Joseph Smith and the beginnings of polygamy.”

      So which is it, there isn’t much there OR there is enough that your “troubled mind” conveniently just happens to stumble across it?

      “God does not use deception to achieve his purposes.”…”If a task requires deception then it is not of God.” I suppose Nephi dressed as Laban to obtain the plates would have to disagree with your faulty logic. Deception? God commanded Nephi to kill Laban to “achieve his purposes”.

      Are you angry over Nephi’s actions??

      • Celia

        I read all the time. Yes. There is not a great deal of information concerning polygamy. There is not. I did not go to to read about polygamy but noticed that there were essays ADDED that had not been there before, so I read them. My desire to explore and read on had nothing to do with searching for information about polygamy. I came across the Joseph Smith essay which had been recently added (2014) so I read it. I was upset after reading the two essays that deal with polygamy so I searched for more information on, but other than small references there is nothing that gives more detail than the two essays posted in 2014. I would love more information but what sources are we to trust? I wrongly assumed that would provide some in depth information.

        besides I always refer to when preparing lessons and talks. Isn’t that what it’s for? Why is that a concern? That I truly search for church sanctioned guidelines? That is always my intent. I had questions and was doing a topical search hoping to find some answers. I was not even looking or thinking about polygamy when I saw the essays. I did not even know they were there! I was surprised by the essays but I wanted more information thus my search.

        Although Nephi killing Laban is Problematic and horrible, the Lord did tell Nephi EXACTLY what to do and WHY he was doing it. Nephi did not return to his brothers and lie about what had transpired. Nephi also did not demand a vow of secrecy from his brothers. The scriptures give a clear account of what happened and why. There is no hiding of the facts or lying.

        There is a difference in the methods used by Nephi and those used by Joseph Smith. I don’t know the answers of why Joseph behaved as he did but I cannot accept that God is a liar and used deception and secrecy to accomplish his purposes. If HE did and does then how can I trust him? If God is a liar then what’s the point of anything?

        • Celia’s Reflection

          I’m going to give you the benefit of the doubt for a moment and point something out to you with the hope you would sincerely take it to heart.

          “Although Nephi killing Laban is Problematic and horrible, the Lord did tell Nephi EXACTLY what to do and WHY he was doing it.”

          If that is you defense… fine, prove that Lord didn’t EXACTLY explain to Joseph Smith what to do and WHY he was doing it when it came to polygamy/polyandry? You can’t.

          The only thing that is really problematic is when we try to make God conform/limit to the standards that we suppose he should be like, act like. Why is Nephi killing Laban “Problematic” for you? If God commanded it, why is it problematic in any way? Why do you have the double standard? Are you saying as long as God explains in a written easy to read step by step format and description to your personal liking, then it is “okay” with you. If it is not written out in a manner of your liking, then it is not of God? Not enough for your liking on about polygamy. I already gave you the link to refute your claim that the wives of Joseph Smith weren’t listed, to which you had no comment.

          Did God not command Thou shalt not kill? Then is it problematic to you that God sent the flood to “kill” wicked people to accomplish his purposes? Is it problematic to you that God commanded Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, David, and Solomon to practice polygamy OR is only problematic to you when the prophet’s name happens to be Joseph Smith? How about Brigham Young?

          ” Nephi did not return to his brothers and lie about what had transpired. Nephi also did not demand a vow of secrecy from his brothers. The scriptures give a clear account of what happened and why. There is no hiding of the facts or lying.”

          You say at least Nephi didn’t lie to his brothers? What about lying to Zoram to obtain the plates? Or does Zoram not count in your mind…only if you lie to family? Did Nephi threaten Zoram’s life and force him to secrecy? If Zoram didn’t hearken his words, would Nephi have killed Zoram too?

          “32 And it came to pass that I spake with him (Zoram), that if he would hearken unto my words, as the Lord liveth, and as I live, even so that if he would hearken unto our words, WE WOULD SPARE HIS LIFE.”

          Again the only thing problematic Celia that I see is you are trying to box God into “your” definition. You in like turn are trying to box Joseph Smith into your definition.

          Like Elder Uchtdorf said:
          “Doubt your doubts before you doubt your faith”

          Happy to pick this up further on the forum side of, just start a thread with your questions/doubts!

  • SusanG

    Per the deciphering of spiritual knowledge discussion in the thread: I have found that spiritual revelation combined with action (i.e. obedience to that revelation) leads to empirical knowledge. This equation (Impression/faith + action = knowledge) is the legitimate process for testing revelation – and, incidentally, the process for discovering your own ability to decipher the source. If it yields promised results (“good fruit”) you have your evidence (see Alma 32). That is why you will find Latter-day Saints unyielding in their testimonies of the truth. They have lived the gospel (restored through Joseph Smith!) and they have the proof. The knowledge gained by obedience to spiritual truths is exhaustive, unceasing, remarkable, and very, very real; in short: impossible to give up. Let historic accounts play out what they will, I continue in faith and obedience and my vision and understanding continue to increase, as does my happiness and peace.

    • Galen’s Reflection

      Wonderfully said SusanG!

  • “Save it be plain it is not of God” –BOM.
    The reality is that polygamy/polyandry and all its creepiness produced what? The fruit of this practice was/is unhealthy and immoral in so many ways—particularly the spiritual abuse exercised by men over women. The issue of Helen Mar Kimball and the Lawrence twins and others is not just the sex or non-sex but the spiritual abuse that took place over young women.
    The BOM and the D&C (well the original D&C section 101 that was in the D&C for decades before BY took it out and replaced it with DC 132 without “voice and common consent”) are an indictment of creating actual or even spiritual harems.
    God warned Joseph he would be taken if he gave in to his carnality. If you accept Joseph as a prophet and seer then you would have to accept the warnings and the evidence that he was finally taken not because he was a martyr at an early age or because he finished his mission (prophesied he would live to 85) but because he simply fell into deep error and gave in to his carnality —lust including lust for power and willingness to slander as well as attempt to murder his enemies rather than defeat them through grace and love.
    If I can accept that Joseph mediated light and truth when humble and desiring truth, I must also be willing to accept that he was capable of falling and in this case he fell hard —perhaps to show us that THE message from heaven was never intended to being about him nor should there ever be a need to have a testimony of any mortal but the Son of God

    • Pat Madson

      “in this case he fell hard – perhaps”

      Great, opinion mixed with personal speculation… from a person who wasn’t there and doesn’t know God’s reasoning for the timing of Joseph’s death. At least you added the word “perhaps” to highlight the fact that you are just making things up yourself.

  • Galen

    Anyone who acts like Joseph’s polygamy and Polyandy was/is common knowledge in the church is a liar…I was a member for 42 years, served in a Bishopric, on two High Councils, ward mission leader 4 times, taught early morning seminary, High Priest Group Leader, EQ Presidrnt, taught Gospel Doctrine twice…,and did not now Joseph had affairs and multiple wives and lied about it 3 sates and to his wife until the essays came out. You could say I’m an exception or that I’m ignorant although I have three masters and a PhD. The bottom line is Josephh lied and the church covered it up until the Internet made it possible to hide any longer. Hopefully members will not blame the victims…millions of members who have been lied to.

    • Galen’s Reflection

      Well compared to all your supposed “credentials”, I’ve taught Sunbeams, served in the Boy Scouts and been in charge of the Ward Bulletin before, yet, even I knew this because I bothered to study it. It has been published for years. Is it a surprise to anyone that Brigham Young practiced polygamy? Is this news to you and your PhD? At one point almost the entire United States knew of this fact, yet some members never bother to think… “oh, I wonder if Brigham Young’s mentor and predecessor Joseph Smith was also practicing polygamy. Why don’t I study it today”. 42 years in the church as an instructor and never bothered to learn any deeper? Shame

      Answers are “hiding” in plain sight if anyone bothered to read:

      • MTB

        Can you point me to some official church publications that discussed Joseph’s polyandry?

        • MTB’s Reflection

          Alma 32:17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

          MTB, does your testimony really sway that much with every breeze that passes by? Are you really that weak in your testimony? You have small children in primary, is this what you teach them. Prove it! Show it! Rather than ask to have everything spoon feed to you… do some research yourself. Last freebie, then you are on your own, though I doubt this will suside your current doubting nature and I expect you will simply respond with “show me more, that is still not enough”. Like Mary Poppins said, “A spoon full of humility helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way!”:

    • CanofSand

      Of course it’s common knowledge. It’s discussed in Sunday school. YOU are the liar.

    • Felise

      I’m sorry Galen, but anyone who has 42+ years of experience under their belt including various leadership roles, being a teacher, and even decorated with Masters and PhD accomplishments as you have so claimed would never have such disregard for their commented opinions. Please, for future comments, double check your spelling and diction to make sure that you at least ‘sound’ like you have a PhD.
      Now having said that, if I may I ask a question, seeing that you indeed must have become thoroughly acquainted with it…

      Where do you stand concerning the Book of Mormon?

  • Lane

    None of this is in any church manuals or teaching material or even depicted in artwork. Very shady!

    • Lane’s Reflection

      Your comment is laughably false. Anyone can go to and run a search on “Joseph Smith polygamy” and read all they want. Another example of someone not bothering to study or read what is already provided.

      • Celia

        The admission about Joseph practicing polyandry was posted in 2014. I read all the time and there is not a great deal of information about polygamy. On the church website there is not even a list of Joseph’s wives. I’m not sure what you mean by “read all they want”. I’ve done this countless times to truly study this topic. To find more information you will need to rely on non-church-sanctioned sources. Richard Bushman is a good source but he is not someone authorized to speak for the church. Church sanctioned information is sparse. I was always told to not read “anti-Mormon” stuff. This was so ingrained in me that I felt guilty searching the Internet to find out more. What @Lane says is true, that stuff is not found in any lesson manuals. This is our culture and history and the information should readily available to all. The essays are a first step in transparency. Let’s hope and pray for more.

        • Celia’s Reflection

          Alma 32:17 Yea, there are many who do say: If thou wilt show unto us a sign from heaven, then we shall know of a surety; then we shall believe.

          “I read all the time and there is not a great deal of information about polygamy. On the church website there is not even a list of Joseph’s wives.”

          You are proof positive that the average church critic is fairly lazy when it comes to actually researching or reading anything. They hear what they want, they read or don’t read what fits their agenda. I’ll share what I shared with MTB.

          Celia, does your testimony really sway that much with every breeze that passes by? Are you really that weak in your testimony? Prove it! Show it! Rather than ask to have everything spoon feed to you… do some research yourself. Last freebie, then you are on your own, though I doubt this will subside your current doubting nature and I expect you will simply respond with “show me even more, that is still not enough”. Like Mary Poppins said, “A spoon full of humility helps the medicine go down in the most delightful way!”:
          Complimentary list of some of Joseph’s Wives for members who “actually” really read

          • Celia

            You are rude and condescending and if you hope to sway others with your arrogance, I think your logic is FAULTY.

            Let’s agree to disagree. I worship God the Eternal Father and not Joseph Smith. Couldn’t it just be possible that Satan was content to muddy the waters when he could not derail the restoration of the gospel?

            I have ACTUALLY read Your arrogance is astounding. There is not a complete list of Joseph’s wives found there. you are using partial truths to make a point because your logic is faulty. I was not criticizing the church. What is wrong with you? You can’t have a civil discussion or ever admit you are wrong? You choose to try and embarrass and criticize people to come around to your way of thinking. asking questions is NOT a sin. What if my testimony is weak in relation to polygamy? It is. I admit it. When condescending people like you try to misinterpret my words it makes me wonder why you have to resort to those methods?

          • Celia

            Are you so weak in your testimony that you can’t accept that maybe you don’t know everything?

          • Celia’s Reflection

            If your impression of me is condescending, oh well. You came here to criticize the church with with only a half full tank and lots of hypothetical possibilities. I pointed out your “faulty logic” and now you are upset about it. Sorry…not really.

            Celia (June 11th 10:50): “I was not criticizing the church.”
            Celia (June 10th 12:44pm): “but first and foremost; I cannot fathom that THE CHURCH website is excusing deception, divorce and polyandry.”

            Celia (June 10th 1:54pm): “On the church website there is not even “A” list of Joseph’s wives.
            I provided a link for you, but even that isn’t enough… you change your demand not just a list, but now it is a “complete” list…
            Celia (June 11th 10:50am): “There is not a “COMPLETE” list of Joseph’s wives found there. ”
            Next you will demand the social security numbers of each wife and their Zodiac signs.

            Sway, sway in the breeze. Swaying is one thing. Coming here and spewing your criticism and then pretending to only be asking polite innocent questions is the opposite.

            Pretend you are not here to criticize the church, and I’ll pretend that I’m playing nicely.

  • Pat

    I don’t think the issue with the church is about Joseph smith wives. Some girls got married young in those days. The problem is how he translated the Book of Mormon and the Pearl of great price. As you can see from the photo in the pogo it’s a funeral procession. Yet Joseph wrote the book of Moses and Aberham. This was supposed to be done with the uran and trumbam. But it’s wrong. Then we the members of the church grew up believing he translated using the Book of Mormon with the uran & trumbam and we come to find out he didn’t, he used his hat! Did he simply read out of his hat and make that all up also? As he did the Pearl of great price?
    Many more questions are arising concerning the church and its teachings also. 40 wives we can live with. Some of these other things I can’t.

    • Renee

      I’m trying to figure out if your reference to “uran and trumbam” is a typo, sarcasm, ignorance, or something entirely different.

    • Pat’s Reflection

      It appears Pat that at best you have a very limited understanding of Church History. There is nothing hidden from your learning IF you had elected to search it out. We are encouraged all the time by our leaders to study and learn more. They provide manual after manual, lesson after lesson, video after video, talk after talk. With any ounce of effort a Primary child could have learned about using the a hat to make it dark enough to see the stone. If you find yourself suddenly “surprised” later in life to find something out, perhaps look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Why didn’t I study things more?”

      Two clicks and here it is on
      ” According to these accounts, Joseph placed either the interpreters or the seer stone in a hat, pressed his face into the hat to block out extraneous light, and read aloud the English words that appeared on the instrument.26″

      • MTB

        And yet the church still uses this incorrect image of Joseph using the plates with Oliver as scribe.

        I have multiple children in Primary. I assure you that none of them are aware of the head in hat translation method. For that matter, I’d be shocked if any of their adult leaders were aware of the details of how the Book of Mormon came to be.

        • Kelly

          The comments on here are the very reason the church doesn’t make a big deal about advertising how Joseph translated. People simply can’t handle the truth. Joseph was quoted as saying that if he were to reveal all that he had seen, no one would stay in the church because they couldn’t fathom what he would have been talking about, and they would have thought he was crazy. Things of God are not like the things of man. I don’t know why people are surprised when they hear Joseph used a tall hat to peer into the seer stone. If I tried to explain my cell phone to someone from his time, they would think I was weird, too.

        • Gale

          There are several new books that address the way LDS art has been misleading, including Laura Hales’ new book, A Reason for Faith.

        • Is not the manner of translation far, far less important than whether he did translate it with the power of God or whether the Book of Mormon is the word of God? Is this truly an issue upon which the veracity of the Book of Mormon should rest, or is this discussion just a philosophical straw man?

        • Dave

          All of the above are true. He used a Urim and Thummim straight up, in a hat, a seerstone in a hat and I remember reading somewhere his account of being able to just look at or thumb through the plates and be able to translate without the use of aids (urim and thummim, seerstone). It is also logical to assume that at a certain point Joseph was able to quite completely read and understand the actual language/glyph that the writers of the Book of Mormon used and translate is directly on his own (with or without spiritual guidance is up for conjecture at some point). Do not forget the no small miracle of being able to start and stop without reading back any of the material., the Anton story, etc. Truly Joseph was a translating genius AND was guided from on high.

        • JM

          I’ve taught primary for 2 decades and the rock in the hat version is not in any of the manuals.

  • muriel brocklehurst

    polygamy was brought into practice after joseph prayed about all the women who had lost husbands and had no one to look after them and their children ….polygamy was the answer to his prayers that was a good idea till some of the men took advantage of the situation ..people talk about joseph having had a 14 year old wife in those days being married at 14 was the norm…it is 2 years younger than the legal age now in these days …we cannot judge what went on then because of the era and the given commandment of the time by the lord…we also have to remember that that same commandments were given to prophets s at certain times in the old testament…right or wrong its in the past and does not happen now …only in the groups that cut themselves off from the church nothing to do with the church of Jesus Christ of latter day saints …..people can say just what they like but they cant alter the fact that joseph smith did see God and jesus Christ and restored the church in its full glory one ever claimed the prophet was perfect because only G OD and JESUS HIS SON can lay claim to that……we are all mere mortals and make mistakes all the time ,that is why we have the atonement of JESUS CHRIST…he laid down his life for us ….and lets not forget the church is GODS church and joseph smith was chosen by Heavenly Father to be an instrument in the hands of the LORD to build up his kingdom….just as were the prophets of old ..most of those had history of not being righteous at some point in their lives…I stand strong by the knowledge that we are in the true church of god and one day we will all be allowed to see the big picture but for now I will trust in my faith and GOD

    • Nicole

      The Church of God? Here’s what former wife of Brigham Young, Ann Eliza Young, had to say about the polyandry:

      One woman said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy: ‘The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph’s attentions whenever he chose to come to me.’

      Some of these women have since said they did not know who was the father of their children; this is not to be wondered at, for after Joseph’s declaration annulling all Gentile marriages, the greatest promiscuity was practiced; and, indeed, all sense of morality seemed to have been lost by a portion at least of the church.
      – Wife No. 19, 1876, pages 70-71

      Remember that Emma ended up staying behind and leaving Joseph Smith? People in the church are deeply intwined and absorbed with “The Church”. Who are you? You are a child of God. You are Mormon. Most true believing LDS folks are unable to really question things because then you would be questioning who you are, and your family and all of your friends and probably all of your social connections because being Mormon is who you are. People are not individuals, they are just another drop in the ocean- just like Joseph’s wives- he could have whoever he chose and he didn’t care because he was in charge and had power and abused it and by the name of God had women stepping out on their husbands and sneaking around because he had a vision from God. That is a man I want to follow, one with integrity and high sex drive.

      I don’t understand how someone can believe that he “translated” the Book of Mormon. Have you researched The Wonders of Nature and Providence, Displayed (1825)? or “View of the Hebrews” published in 1823. My jaw literally dropped when I saw the similarities. But if you are happy in a male dominated and run church with little say, then hey. It is all your chose. After all we do have free agency.

    • MTB

      “people talk about joseph having had a 14 year old wife in those days being married at 14 was the norm”

      This is incorrect. In 1850, the average age for females’ first marriage was 23.1, in the United States. Regardless, it was never the norm for a 14 year old girl to marry a 37 year old man (who already had a couple dozen wives).

  • Marco Eguino

    This article for me has several key points:
    1. Reasoning and looking for archeological or historical proofs will only confuse and weaken a testimony, As with Adam, we all need to try our faith and obey, then will we receive a “proof” or an understanding of Devine Things.
    2. The scripture cited regarding Christ’s teaching to Nicodemus has the answer for any and all questions: the Holy Ghost… we are here to live by faith, and a testimony is gained not by scholar studying, but by a simple and sincere communication with God.
    3. I have walked the same path as most members who know for certain that this is Christ’s Church, and He guides it and leads it, and this involves getting rid of our reasoning side which looks for material proofs on somehting spiritual, and receiving an Spiritual revelation on spiritual matters.
    As with Willian Phelps and David, even if on this day someone would find a letter signed by Joseph Smith himslef testifying that it was all a lie, I would still know that he was a prohphet, that the Book of Mormon is real, and that this is Jesus Christ’s only Church. The rest of the world may testify otherwise and it would not make a difference at all in my testimony because I did not receive it from Joseph, not from President Monson, I received it from the Holy Ghost, there is nothing more powerful than that.

    • Cory Elom

      Muriel, the 1850 census, relevant to the Nauvoo period, places the average age of marriage for women at 20.5 years. While 14 year old girls did get married, it was in fact rare, and there was nothing normal about them entering into polygamy. This is a discussion worth having, but if you want to have it, you need to be able to state truth, and not spread fiction. It is the fiction such as your statements that critics point to to demonstrate that the church hides the truth from its members. Not being equipped with facts harms the dialog. Fortunately, the church has provided the tools for you to do engage in the discussion using facts. These tools can be found on the church’s website. Click Scriptures and Study, then Gospel Topics, then Essays. These tools have been edited, vetted, and approved by the first presidency and quorum of the twelve to aid you in the online discussion. Best regards.

  • Helen

    As an outsider its odd to see a church give praise to a human being….

    • Beau

      Really? And Saints in the Catholic Church were what exactly? I’m not trying to be rude, just pointing out that being greatful for the work done by a servant of God is not really a new thing. And just to clarify we do not worship Joseph Smith, Moroni, Mormon, or the current Prophet Thomas Monson, we worship Jesus Christ and Heavenly Father.

    • Shauna

      I think it’s a problem of semantics here. I know other religions use the phrase “praise God” and if you’re thinking in that context perhaps it would sound odd to you. But we worship God, and although we also praise Him, it isn’t a word we use to mean “worship.” If my child does something exceptional, and I praise her for it, I am not worshipping her. That’s the kind of praise we give Joseph Smith, and many other human beings. I hope that helps!

  • This article was reasoned and heartfelt. These comments were like reading a big family Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Noel

    Did Emma know that the two counselors in the first relief society presidency were sealed to Smith. Also when Zina Huntington was sealed to BY she was pregnant to her husband Lyn Jacobs.

  • Fantastic article! Thank you for sharing! I love that it points out that a lot of times it’s when the church, past or present, does things differently than the way we think it should be done. The word for that is pride and the scriptures are clear on what happens when we are prideful. It’s not easy when things happen that we don’t understand, but our mortal lack of understanding does not mean a lack of eternal truth. I am also glad that Joseph Smith made mistakes, it sure makes me feel more confidant that I can still strengthen my testimony and be righteous even as I am imperfect.

  • Bob l Quinn

    I found this article extremely enlightening. Thanks so much for your comments and experiences.
    When I served my mission almost 20 years ago, we were asked several times from non members about polygamy. We would always mention to them, as I have often heard many times since then, that if they would come to know that The Book of Mormon was true by the promise and blessings of Moroni stated in Moroni 10:3-5, that if The Book of Mormon is true, Joseph Smith must be a prophet. The church that uses that book as the words of God, must be the true church, and so on.
    Those who fall away from the church must not have developed the testimony they needed, that when the storms arrive, they wouldn’t wash away.
    As members, we all need to be “Born Again”. We need to have our own personal revelations.
    Thanks again for your comments.

  • Mark Mocke

    Dear David
    Thanks you for this eloquent, thoughtful and well written article. Your research and conclusions are inspired and inspiring! There are too few who stand up to the negative perceptions of Joseph Smith and the church head on like you have. May Heavenly Father continue to bless and inspire you in your work.
    God Bless
    Mark Mocke
    South Africa

  • Anthony Hathaway-Taylor

    I’m not sure why we keep digging into this old chestnut. Time and time again we have all been told whether within LDS or not that Joseph Smith had numerous wives. Big whoop. He did.

    Western Society and the stronger position held within it does not sit well with plural marriages and the practice was abandoned ages ago – again, no big surprise there.

    So … rather than focus on what was a misunderstanding …. here comes a shocker … why not focus on the good done by Joseph Smith and others (of the time) who did good for LDS.


  • Wendy

    I question whether most LDS folks, even active ones, have a copy of “Rough Stone Rolling” on their bookshelves.

    For this reason and others, this article has problems.

    • Anna Johnson

      Thank you, Wendy! This just restored my faith in humanity’s ability to think logically or at least compose a complete argument (as it should be expected by someone who has written a book on logic) and not just drop conclusory remarks like bird pooh all over the place. I appreciate a well reasoned article even when it is against my believes.

    • Josh

      The article didn’t say ‘most’ it said thousands. For this reason and no others, your comment has problems.

    • David

      Most members prob dont have a copy of that book. I dont. The point he was making is that it, along with any other text, is available to and not hidden from anyone.

    • Tina

      I think your problem is with your math. The author here states that “thousands” of members have “Rough Stone Rolling” on their shelves. Not even in today’s common core math standards would “thousands” equate to “most LDS folks” as you have expressed, when there are millions of active LDS.

  • John Gaskin

    @Carl Simmons
    That was a comment worthy of its own post. Seriously. Your view of things is the same view I’ve come to adopt over the years. I hope more people read what you had to say as well.

  • Meredith

    I guess I’m a bit out of the loop. I didn’t realize there had been such an issue made of the church’s articles on polygamy. I haven’t read them because I figured they were old news. I’m a convert of 19 years and I’ve known about Joseph Smith’s multiple wives for many of those years. I’ve heard it discussed in Sunday School, Relief Society and among members in general. A lot of people are uncomfortable with the subject of polygamy, but in all the wards and stakes I’ve lived in it was never a secret. So imagine my surprise to read in the comments of people claiming that the church had hidden knowledge that I’ve been hearing freely about, in church, for years! I wonder where this is happening, because it sure isn’t happening where I live. Maybe it’s a regional issue? I’d be curious to see if discussions on polygamy and Joseph Smith’s multiple wives are more open in some areas than others.

  • Carl Simmons

    I’ve been digging into church history all my life. Countless times I have felt intense doubt, but have then always dug deeper and found even greater “faith.” In my experience, the key is getting to the bottom of the story, or at least as far as you can, with an open mind, and even an openness to God.

    The first instance of doubt I remember was when I was a young teen (about 40 years ago) learning that Joseph Smith sometimes translated with a seer stone. Was he involved in magic? Now I say, “one man’s magic is another man’s miracle.” If God could give JS the Book of Mormon translation through two triangular stones (the interpreters), then why not through one oblong one. But hasn’t the church been hiding the true story (as if ashamed)? “The Church” is US. We are a LAY church. Kids who learned the same Sunday School lessons that I did are now the leaders who create the curriculum and give the Conference talks. They mostly just pass on what they learned growing up. It takes more faith to believe there’s a great conspiracy (“the Church”) that knows all the history and is intent on hiding it. Ignorance of the history is perpetuated, not by conspiracy, but by default. On the other hand, there is a human tendency to avoid embarrassing or controversial topics, and for that reason some aspects of church history have been avoided. I hope that changes, and it appears to be changing now to some extent. Now I neither see the seer stone as problematic or embarrassing. I just think it’s pretty cool.

    After that, it was JS’s polygamy. I dug deeper and found what looks like a pattern of Abrahamic tests, both for Joseph Smith and for the other men and women involved as well as their families. Abraham was told to kill his own son. I’m sure he didn’t tell the boy’s mother about his intentions. It simply would not have turned out well. This is all horrible–the intentions, the deceptions–but it turned out OK. It was a test of faith. There was a miracle. Hebrews 11 is the doctrinal explanation.

    “By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son, Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called: Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead.”

    This is scary doctrine. Abraham was asked, and was willing, to kill. It would not fly well with the NY Times. But Abraham knew God well enough that he believed that he could restore Isaac to life, and trusted God enough to do as he said. Abraham was no homicidal crazy, even though the Times would have reported it that way. James 2 tells us why God asked Abraham to do something so unbelievable.

    “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was FAITH MADE PERFECT? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God.”

    Abraham was able to take a test that would have been otherwise horrifying and scandalous because of what he knew. Passing the test greatly increased his faith so that he became a “friend of God.” That’s the refiner’s fire. The ore melting in intense heat becomes silver. Abraham had a miracle when an angel appeared and saved his son. Look deeper into JS’s polygamy and you will find life-changing spiritual manifestations there as well.

    Search “divine manifestations to plural wives” at

    Let me add my own Mother’s struggle with the idea of poylgamy in church history. The thought that she might, either in this life or the next, possibly be asked to “share” her husband tormented her for years. With no other options, she sought comfort through prayer and eventually had a very powerful experience that gave her a sense of peace concerning the matter. That’s all. No intellectual explanation. No promises. Just peace.

    Hebrew 11 and James 2 don’t make deception and plotting death by throat-slitting any less horrible, but they do provide understanding to those inclined to believe that God could really have asked Abraham to sacrifice his son. Could this life really be so serious? Aren’t we just on this planet to shop, watch TV, and play with gadgets. We can learn something from our predecessors who were forced to take their lives much more seriously. There’s more to our existence than our pleasure, and there are causes worth living and dying for. Only faith in and from God can give us the hope that makes Abrahamic sacrifice possible. I’m not there yet, but it’s beginning to make sense.

    I heard someone say once that “Joseph Smith lied,” referring to his statements about his polygamy. It was shock and horror. Joseph Smith wouldn’t lie! Then I remembered–Oh yeah, I don’t worship Joseph Smith, I worship God. I don’t need for Joseph Smith to have been perfect, only for Christ to have been. I don’t need to fret about Joseph Smith’s sins, only my own. Whether lies, clever obfuscations, or “technical truths,” it doesn’t matter. He basically deceived with words, and that’s pretty much what lying is. But when it comes to lying, we need to be honest with ourselves. Lying is intellectual violence. It’s never pretty, but like physical violence, sometimes it’s expedient. Would you lie to save your own life? Maybe not. Would you lie to save the life of your child? (You can come up with your own scenarios.) Would you hope that your child would lie, if needed, for her own safety? If you had been beaten before, if people who depended on you had been beaten, raped, and driven from their homes because of your and their beliefs, would you lie about your plural wives to avoid inciting further violence? Maybe he was wrong. Maybe I would have made a more “noble” choice (I doubt it), but it doesn’t really matter to me. He is neither my responsibility nor the object of my worship. Abraham had multiple wives and lied about his marriage. I honor both Abraham and Joseph Smith for what they did, but I leave judging their actions up to God. The Egyptian midwives lied to save the lives of newborns (Exodus 1:15-21), and were blessed for it. What would you have advised them to do?

    What about Joseph Smith being married to other men’s wives? Dig deeper. While some of these were apparently only “sealings” that had no practical implication for this life, at least one appears to have involved full marital relations, including sex and possibly a child. In this case, however, the woman probably considered herself married to only one man (Joseph), and divorced from her first husband. It’s still not pretty, but it’s not adultery either. And I have reached the point that I’m willing to let God be the judge.

    How about that 14 year old bride? Dig deeper. Yes, there was a “sealing,” but that’s about as far as we can go. I don’t see any evidence for sex, although marriage of a 14 year old girl to an older man certainly would have been more acceptable at that time than it is now. To call Joseph Smith a pedophile is both taking the event out of its historical context and taking a lot of liberty with very few facts. With so little information, I’m not going to set myself up as an accuser or judge. Fortunately, we aren’t called to be. And in the end, my beliefs aren’t based on Joseph Smith’s righteousness, anymore than on Peter’s (who denied the Christ) or on Moses’ (who killed and man and literally tried to cover up the evidence). Joseph Smith said, “I told them I was but a man, and they must not expect me to be perfect; if they expected perfection from me, I should expect it from them.” His first recorded revelation (D&C 6) was a scouring for his sins. These men weren’t angels, but if God could work through and with them, maybe there’s hope for me. Maybe.

    • Garret

      After reading lots of other short sighted comments full of bitterness and accusations, I am glad I have stumbled upon your words. Thank you for taking the time to write this, I really feel it is the clearest, most relevant response to this topic.

  • Veronica Almeida

    Too many of my amazing friends would not be alive today if it wasn’t for plural marriage. In some extreme circumstances for pure survival this practice was revealed to them for a short period of time almost 200 years ago. I wasn’t there and they are not around to defend themselves. But what matters to me is what I see today, thank goodness I don’t live in the past!

  • Kevin Anderson

    David – I recognize your name and picture from your work on the mission group/site. I don’t think that I knew you there, but I definitely can relate to your feelings and experience about brother Joseph. I have said many times that my revelatory experiences confirming the good that Joseph was and did have allowed me to “shelve” any concerns that I have heard from any other source. I have studied church history from many sources, recognizing that even the “anti” sources can cite where their stories come from and contain valid historical information and perspective. I also found many wonderful things in the library at the U of U Institute during my years of part-time study. I could go there for a calm and clean environment with lots of opportunity to distract myself from my worldly studies with my church studies. I have been a student of this “hidden” information from my teen years, long before the internet. I have talked about these things with my seminary and institute teachers, who may have cautioned about the dangers to testimony of some sources, but studying outside of the curriculum was never discouraged. There are certainly plenty of insights in the official source documents, in long years of conference addresses and published volumes by the prophets and apostles. There is much more information available to anyone who wishes to look for it than could ever be presented in the curriculum manuals. If one enjoys additional light and truth it does not require much effort to find it, but it does require more than just showing up and sitting through the lessons. I lived in Utah for much of my youth, but I have talked with people in many places far from UT who have similarly found many of the same gems that I have gleaned. Even in the lesson manuals there are clues and teasers that (should) arouse curiosity to seek further information. I have never felt that I could not find out what I wanted to know, either from literature or acquaintances, and usually one search will lead to another and new information and ideas will be found. He who has eyes, let him see.

    Thank you for this excellent article and your thoughtful responses in the comments.

  • Oliver Nina

    There are many things that haven’t been revealed to men. This is because we are not ready to understand higher spiritual laws as well as the people God has chosen as prophets and revelators. There are sacred ordinances and revelations that I know only the apostles of the Lord know about and can’t tell us. Why did Joseph Smith had 40 wifes and one of them was a minor? I don’t know. I don’t know what God purposes were with that. Even if I knew, I probably would not understand it. This is higher law just like the law of consecration which we don’t live nowadays. What I know is that Joseph Smith left the greatest evidence to find out if he is a true prophet. He translated the book of Mormon that is the word of God. For a 23 year old young man to translate a book in three months is unprecedented. This is the marvelous work and a wonder which the Lord has talked about in the scriptures. This book is what God wants us to become familiar with, read, pray and find out through this book if everything Joseph Smith has restored is true or not because everything we need to know is in the book. I know the book of Mormon is true. This is not Joseph Smith’s church, this is God’s church who has restored His gospel and His word for this latter days is in the book of Mormon.

  • Jim

    I appreciate this article. I have felt the same way. Perhaps Joseph “messed up”, but to me that does not change the truth is his First Vision and the Restoration through him.
    I came to the Church after having had a significant spiritual experience, confirming to me that God exists and that he loves me. Then, I later learned of and joined the Church. I received a direct answer from prayer that joining the Church was the right thing for me to do. I didn’t dwell on the details… So, I “found God” and later found the Church. Many people in the Church need to “find God” in a personal way, even though they are already members of the Church. Thanks

  • Robert Brennan

    I read most of the comments and your replies, but no mention has been made that the members of the Church never practiced polygamy. Now I haven’t delved into the subject in depth, but I do know that polygamy means all the members among the group(s) that practiced it were expected to be sexually available to any other member of the group.
    Another point: our culture’s fascination about sexual activity colors our thoughts about plural marriage. True, plural marriages produced children. But it may well be that such was not the principal purpose in all (or even many?) cases.
    Perhaps detractors are suffering from projection?

  • Kris

    David, thank you for a thoughtful article – forthright instead of apologetic. It’s notable that when confronted with troubling information you researched first.

    Count me as another who had never heard some of the things in the essays. It bothers me that this information was not presented to me in a class or manual at some point along my many years of membership. I feel insulted by the simplified church curriculum; treated like I can’t handle the uncomfortable details. Shouldn’t members know their religion, including it’s history? Isn’t it better for members to encounter these things in church rather than stumble upon them (internet, non-member, etc.)? Frankly it feels like whitewashing to me and that’s hard to take from a church that talks so much about the importance of truth. If Joseph Smith can’t be accepted warts and all, do you really know him? Same for all church history. The essays are a good start, and I applaud the church for realizing there is a need for authoritative information. Hopefully the church will review all of it’s educational material and remove errors (ie artwork showing false depictions of the translation of the Book of Mormon) and add details so members have a more complete and accurate account.

    BTW, I agree that mountain biking is like mana.

    • brother Chandler

      Thanks for your post. From a distance and for quite some time I’ve noticed a little of the concern and criticism about Joseph Smith on the internet and in my own family. My own son has left the lds church over this. I’ve never posted anything related to this, but several of your statements caught my attention, and I’ve decided to share some feelings. Some of these thoughts are in response to several of the earlier posts and a few are prompted by comments specifically from your post, including when you wrote:

      “It bothers me that this information was not presented to me in a class or manual at some point along my many years of membership. I feel insulted by the simplified church curriculum; treated like I can’t handle the uncomfortable details. Shouldn’t members know their religion, including it’s history? Isn’t it better for members to encounter these things in church rather than stumble upon them (internet, non-member, etc.)? Frankly it feels like whitewashing to me and that’s hard to take from a church that talks so much about the importance of truth. If Joseph Smith can’t be accepted warts and all, do you really know him? ”

      It sounds like you feel betrayed. Similar to your experiences almost all of the church instructors, sacrament speakers, and leaders I’ve learned from, in over 50 years of active church attendance, have not spent much time on what I think you mean by “uncomfortable details” ….. and I thank God that they did not. I need to learn more about Jesus Christ and our Father and the Holy Ghost, and the doctrines and saving ordinances of the gospel ! There isn’t enough time for me to learn all that I can about these saving essentials. Spending church time on other topics related to Joseph Smith’s mortal traits is a wasteful distraction that does nothing for my edification, building my understanding and faith in the doctrines of the creation, the fall, Jesus the Christ and His Atonement, and the establishment of the Lord’s church, and what I need to do to have faith, repent, and make and keep covenants.

      Last week I attended a gospel doctrine class where the instructor took a lesson that included scriptures about King Lamoni and his father and their incredible conversion. I was enjoying the insights from him and the Spirit until the instructor introduced, and then pursued, the topic of “can we be forgiven of murder”. As he brought this up I felt the Spirit leave and our discussion degraded into a “rationale debate”. We spent about the final 1/3 of our class time on this topic and I felt it was a huge waste of time. Perhaps this would be an appropriate topic for Sunday school in the state prison, but there are no known murderers in our ward. It was frustrating because there were many other aspects we could have spent time on that are more relevant to our lives, such as how to humble self, have a change of heart, repenting, learning to exercise faith in the Savior and His atonement, gaining forgiveness and salvation, missionary work, etc…

      Regarding the thought posted: “Isn’t it better for members to encounter this things in church” I say NO, NO, No. “Shouldn’t members know their religion, including its history” Sure, but we are encouraged to study every day, on our own. So search for “truth” all you want but please don’t let satan get a wedge in-between you and your testimony over this. No church leader or teacher has sinned against you. If you feel you can “handle the uncomfortable details” go dig them up all you want — but please do so on your own time. Please don’t feel “insulted” that no one has shared these things with you. Honestly, no one has prevented you from studying these “details” on your own, except yourself. Own that and don’t blame anyone else, as satan would like you to take offense in doing so.

      Please let’s not encourage our church leaders to use any of the limited and precious time in church classes examining the supposed, or even authenticated flaws of mortals — unless it is to serve as a model for me of how I too, having my “warts” and flaws, can gain hope for redemption, by coming to Christ.

      If we need to “know” our church leaders “warts and all” then how do should we scope this focus of study? What people should we study and when do we know we’ve studied each man and woman enough? Do we start with Adam and go on down through ALL the prophets, the original 12 apostles Jesus called, and all the prophets, apostles, seventies, etc… in the latter days. Do we analyze our regional representatives? The stake presidency? The bishopric, RS presidency, Mission and temple presidents, patriarchs, etc? What if we learn that Moses, Saul, Nephi, Ammon, Alma, and others killed people? Murder is a pretty serious sin — some would even say more serious than sexual sins. What if you learned that recent or current church leaders actually had killed people in WWII or Vietnam, perhaps in less than noble circumstances? What if they piloted aircraft and bombed cities killing innocent women and children? What would you do with that information? Will that affect your testimony of the Father and the Son? I hope not !
      Criticizing Joseph Smith’s life is a huge, huge, distracting-waste-of-time. And doing so is a sin; some quotes from the Lord: “cease to find fault one with another”…. “I [the Lord} will forgive whom I will forgive but of you it is required to forgive ALL men”…. “man shall not judge; for judgement is mine, saith the Lord” …. “forgive we forgive our debtors”….”for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself”…”leave judgement alone with me, for it is mine”…”all have sinned and come short”…”if we say we have no sin we deceive ourselves” …. “if ye forgive not men..neither will your Father forgive you”…. “thou shalt not speak evil of thy neighbor, nor do him any harm”…. “thou shalt not bear false witness”…. This is one of the Lord’s most oft repeated themes, and one of satan’s most oft used strategies to ensnare us in sin. Don’t go there. All we need to do with others is love them, as we should love ourselves and God.

      satan loves it when we criticize, condemn and complain about others, especially church leaders, for he is the father of contention, which drives the Spirit of Truth away. Any of us who, in pride, anger, or criticism point the finger of judgment at church leaders the Lord has called, are, in that moment, doing so while standing in the great and spacious building. We on the wrong side of the gulf of misery in Lehi’s dream. Heaven forbid any of us should do this who have made a covenant with God to not speak evil of those the Lord has called.

      Additionally, salvation never has been, is not now and never will be in “church artwork”, or in “church history” or in church lesson manuals, in a church class, or in the lives of ANY mortal man and woman – including prophets. Salvation is only in and through the Lord Jesus the Christ. His holy and perfect life is the one I need to study — first, most and last. I do not need to focus on the traits of Joseph Smith, but on the traits of Jesus the Christ, and how I can become more like Him. I do not need to worry about the flaws in others, I have only to worry about and work on my own flaws. Any flawed man or woman who can lead me closer to Christ is a blessing to me. I DO NOT NEED TO STUDY THEIR LIVES, evaluate, judge, and/or criticize them. Doing so plays into satan’s hand to sow seeds of Distraction, Disbelieve, Discouragement, and Doubt.
      I do not get closer to the Father and the Son by intelectually studying any mortal person. When we as members waver in our faith in the Lord’s church because of flaws in Joseph or any other church leader we are straining at gnats and swallowing camels. And we are hypocrites.
      To all who are consumed with these issues related to Joseph Smith the man, I say: Wake, up people and stop being deceived by satan! Cease from sinning and be wiser in the use of the precious time given you in your second-estate, search for truth by feasting on the words of Christ to learn about the Godhead, and the doctrines, laws and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus the Christ.

  • Don Bradley

    BTW, I can certainly understand members being shocked about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, since it isn’t much talked about. I was quite surprised to learn about it myself, but this actually happened in teacher’s quorum when I was 15. Our teacher talked about it. When I objected that Joseph Smith only had one wife, he referred me to D&C 132.

    But I wonder whether adults who are shocked to be told Joseph Smith had multiple wives oughtn’t feel just a little bit responsible for this ignorance. If the church publishes in the Doctrine and Covenants Joseph Smith’s revelation on polygamy and then encourages members to read their scriptures daily, whose fault is it if an adult member of the church has never actually read this revelation in the Doctrine and Covenants?

    • MTB


      Growing up in the church (and as a descendant of a polygamous prophet), I had a vague awareness that Joseph introduced the concept of polygamy. I was unaware of the details, and seemed to be content my level of ignorance. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I then stumbled into polyandry while using Google to look for a quote from John Taylor. I was shocked. This was all new information to me. I was 37 years old. I had always been active in the church and studied deeply from church approved curriculum. I was in a bishopric. I had been a gospel doctrine teacher. Why had I never heard about this? For the first time in my life, the thought occurred to me that maybe the church was withholding key information from me. This thought caused me to want to find out everything else that I may have missed. What else didn’t I know? Was the church withholding other key historical details/facts from me? And down the wormhole I went…..

      Regarding polyandry, I spent several years researching and praying about this. For me, there were no faith-affirming answers (spiritually or intellectually). I only felt peace, eventually, when I allowed myself to conclude that polygyny/polyandry were created and instituted by Joseph to satisfy his own sexual desires. That this practice was not commanded by God. I recognize that others may arrive at a faith-affirming conclusion. I was unable to do so.

  • Don Bradley

    Oh, by the way, David. One correction: While I did start my research at about 17, I wasn’t at BYU then; I was in high school.

  • Dave: I appreciate your article. Since I first heard of polyandry, I’ve been reading everything I could get my hands on about Joseph Smith and polygamy. Most people have a preconceived notion of sexuality when it comes to this topic. It’s really not surprising that they come away with a negative opinion of Joseph. The only context that they can associate with the topic of polygamy is sex, sex and more sex. The fact is that people of the 19th century were even more jaded when it came to this topic. After 1842, most people of Nauvoo knew about the polygamy and polyandry and they didn’t care. My family lived in Nauvoo and they have only positive to say. They all knew Joseph and apparently weren’t offended by what was happening. I don’t think that would be the case if the primary purpose of Joseph’s polygamy was to “get some.” I’ve come to the conclusion that sex was not the focus of Joseph Smith in his practice of polygamy. My problem is that I don’t see much if any merit in the practice of polygamy. Usually when a prophet has a revelation (e.g. Word of wisdom) something good comes of it. Polygamy seems to have been a disaster. It got Joseph killed. It got the saints driven out of Illinois. (Maybe that was good). We were persecuted and ridiculed for years because of it and I guess we still are. It was abused by some. (See RIDERS OF THE PURPLE SAGE). What’s your take? Did anything good come of polygamy?

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the thoughtful article.

    All of these “scandals” you see now days have always had reasonable explanations after I have studied enough into them. People run into trouble when they just read a headline or listen to an anti-Mormon spin. Also, don’t assume modern ideas always fit the way people thought farther back in history.

    For more info about this topic, check out the following history: Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 3 volumes, by Brian C. Hales. Another great resource in general is

  • Very thoughtful blog. I agree. Especially with original sourcing and that, as was shared in a recent conference, spiritual questions deserve spiritual answers from God. I also remember reading an article about Don Bradley who said that the answer you get depends largely on the question you ask. Simple, but one of the most profound ideas I’ve heard on seeking truth.
    I’ve always known from my teen years about church leaders practicing polygamy, particularly Brigham Young and Joseph Smith. It was never hidden and I lived outside Utah, where without the internet, there was less print material. However, I realize others have been jolted by this information that came new to them and I completely understand. There’s jolting information about some prophets in the Old Testament as well. It will all become clear when we have complete understanding of context, culture and God’s purposes. I have limited knowledge but complete faith in that.
    We all censor, everyday, what we read. Time, interest, and relevancy forces us to choose. Church curriculum committees must choose what to print and select what is relevant for teaching doctrine and building faithful testimony and behaviors. Polygamy is not a current doctrine or practice so why would we be teaching it in classrooms today? We need to focus on what information would produce better understanding and practices of receiving and honoring covenants, temple worship, charity, and other savings doctrines.

    Did you read this interesting article in the Atlantic?

    • Kris

      Thank you for mentioning The Atlantic article. Among the many thought-provoking ideas, I was struck by the notion that as mortal beings seeking meaning while in a state of ignorance (much is known, but much more is unknown) is it unreasonable to employ religion as a coping mechanism when the irreligious avenues don’t supply closure?

  • kyle

    Thank you David! I appreciate your insight very much.

    My life changed for the better in every way after I studied the Book of Mormon and did my best to apply its teachings. I knew it was true by the Spirit and also by the “fruits” that came into my life as a result. I received strength to overcome many of the challenges that I had struggled with for many years. I can’t speak for others, but for me it was a great miracle which freed me from a life of addiction and sadness. I have read it many times now and continue to receive strength every day as I ponder its message.

    I know that much is said, and written, concerning Joseph Smith- the same is true of Christ himself. There were many who hated Him and proclaimed that He was a blasphemer or even the devil Himself. As for me, I feel that Joseph Smith was indeed called of God. I also believe that Jesus Christ is my Lord and my God.

    I’ll continue to sing “Praise to the Man” as long as I am permitted to live. Joseph Smith helped me to build a personal relationship with the Savior and I am indebted to him.

  • John

    If everyone has always known about this, why did my Bishop and Stake President threaten me with discipline if I talked to any members about it (this was a few years ago). Why did they tell me I had been deceived by Satan and fell on anti-mormon lies?

    • davidgrant

      Hi John,

      I am sorry you had that experience, and not having been there, I cannot answer your question. I have had similar discussions with my ecclesiastical leaders over time and these have been received anywhere from open and encouraging to nervous. I have never been “threatened” with disciplinary action or told not to speak to other members. Further, the items discussed, and I did not hold back, were never referred to as satanic deception or anti-mormon lies…unless they really were anti-mormon lies.

  • Cassandra

    My question is why did Joseph hide his wives from Emma? Do you have any insight on that?

    • davidgrant

      I don’t, Cassandra. I could only speculate, which is always dangerous. I have tried to create a scenario in my mind that would explain the reason and have not come up with anything that is definitively satisfying. It is one thing that I have to shelve for a time. Whether the decision came from his own weakness, fear of her response, or as a command from God I don’t think will ever be known. If one of the first two, it does not have significant bearing in my conviction.

      • Laurel

        David, thanks for this article and for your honesty. I was just reading through the comments and I truly appreciate you admitting that you cannot come up with satisfying answers for some of these historical “issues.” It is validating and helpful to hear that and yet to know that you remain steadfast in your faith. (I have the same question that Cassandra asked. Among many more…) I’ve read some recent articles (mostly by bloggers) which, in my opinion, are condescending to anyone who struggles with questions. They are obviously written by people who have never doubted their faith, so I feel that they are unqualified to write articles on a topic with which they have no personal experience. That being said, thank you for sharing your experience. This was an uplifting read.

    • beth

      I don’t think he did hide it from Emma. She help pick the next wife as they all did. this is what I remember from my seminary class As it was not just Joseph that had more the one wife. If you think back to that time we remember it was in a girls best interest to be married unlike today and because of war and other things men where not there to marry and support the girls. And about him marrying a young girl they all marryed young Joseph was only 30 when he was killed and if we read in the bible we see other with more then one wife it just what was done then I don’t see how this has any thing to do with now when it is not what we do.

      • bwv549

        Brian Hales is a pro-mormon apologist, and he lists two sealing dates for both Eliza and Emily Partridge on his Joseph Smith’s Polygamy site. Why were they sealed two times to Joseph?

    • Bill

      See the comment left by Carl Simmons (Dec 5, 2014 at 6:12 pm). He has very interesting thoughts about this exact subject. Here is part of his comments:

      I heard someone say once that “Joseph Smith lied,” referring to his statements about his polygamy. It was shock and horror. Joseph Smith wouldn’t lie! Then I remembered–Oh yeah, I don’t worship Joseph Smith, I worship God. I don’t need for Joseph Smith to have been perfect, only for Christ to have been. I don’t need to fret about Joseph Smith’s sins, only my own. Whether lies, clever obfuscations, or “technical truths,” it doesn’t matter. He basically deceived with words, and that’s pretty much what lying is. But when it comes to lying, we need to be honest with ourselves. Lying is intellectual violence. It’s never pretty, but like physical violence, sometimes it’s expedient. Would you lie to save your own life? Maybe not. Would you lie to save the life of your child? (You can come up with your own scenarios.) Would you hope that your child would lie, if needed, for her own safety? If you had been beaten before, if people who depended on you had been beaten, raped, and driven from their homes because of your and their beliefs, would you lie about your plural wives to avoid inciting further violence? Maybe he was wrong. Maybe I would have made a more “noble” choice (I doubt it), but it doesn’t really matter to me. He is neither my responsibility nor the object of my worship. Abraham had multiple wives and lied about his marriage. I honor both Abraham and Joseph Smith for what they did, but I leave judging their actions up to God. The Egyptian midwives lied to save the lives of newborns (Exodus 1:15-21), and were blessed for it. What would you have advised them to do?

  • David, thanks for the insightful article.

  • Hope

    I do think it is a shame that many of these things weren’t included in the recounting of history, what is interesting to me is that where other just as ‘quirky’ stories are told people are much more able to accept them. If from the beginning it was talked about that Joseph Smith had multiple wives then so many people would not be struggling now with their testimonies.
    The thought of being deceived that is what we find unpleasant.
    I completely agree that it is impossible to look back on history and get a clear is hard enough to get to the bottom of a misunderstanding with a good friend! It is clear that many lies have been told, many mistakes made, leaving many questions to ask, and revelation to be sort. It is also clear to me that there is real power for good in the world and great power for evil, and it is very hard to decipher truth. If somebody didn’t like me it would be easy to ruin my reputation.

    I haven’t really found all the answers that I am looking for but I am certainly grateful for the deeply powerful experiences I have had as I have learned about my Saviour. I am grateful for truths that I have learned and the insights I have gained studying the scriptures. I HOPE that Joseph Smith was a Prophet, and that many of the things he stands accused of are not true. I want to know who he was. But really, what I want to do, is get to know God, and comprehend His love. I want to understand more fully why we matter to Him. I want to be filled with that love. And be able to be useful to others. People are in so much pain right not, feeling compelled to let go or lose their precious testimonies; thinking that they can’t believe these things if Joseph Smith is not what we thought he was. I am glad my beliefs are not dependent on that. I understand that Joseph Smith has as much opportunity to make mistakes as anyone else.

    Christ and the Atonement is the only source to fully rely upon, everything else is subject to imperfection. So even if Joseph Smith is ‘guilty’ I can still draw closer to Christ if his teachings are from Christ..and it seems perfectly clear that many of his teachings do beautifully draw one closer to the Saviour.

    I am grateful for your willingness to share your experiences. And the time you are taking to reply to people.

    • Jesse Bardsley

      Thank you for focusing us on Christ. That is really what it all comes down to. That is the true test of a prophet anyway: does his “fruit” bring us closer to Christ, or not? “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Perhaps Jesus revealed this definition of true prophethood because He knew how confusing things would be in the last days, and knew that we would need to rely on our sense of good and evil and not solely on empirical evidence, which can be so easily twisted.

  • Patrick

    This just makes me sad. Everyone is claiming they knew about the troubling history. If everyone knew, why did the Church have to publish the essays?

    The author’s evidence that polygamy was mentioned were from the years 1843, 1905, and 1992, 87 and 62 year gaps. This doesn’t lend to the notion that the topic would be a part of routine discourse. Plus, we aren’t talking about polygamy in general, we are talking about Joseph’s polygamy, which is an entirely different story than what was repeated in the church for decades; that story was that a greater number of men died on the trek west, therefore there was a greater number of women in Utah. Polygamy was a stop-gap measure to allow the greater number of women to be sealed for eternity. Once the population was corrected, the practice was abandoned. Joseph’s polygamy was doctrinal from the beginning and his practice of marrying other men’s wives and teenage girls illustrates it had nothing to do with a shortage of men.

    Lastly, the author mentions W. W. Phelps knew about Joseph’s polygamy and was even present at a key revelation on polygamy. Why doesn’t the author explain what that key revelation on polygamy was, since everyone already knows?

    I love the LDS Church and the Gospel of
    Jesus Christ, but it is frustrating to deal with the maturing stage it is forced to endure now. If the Church wants to hide anything to do with its history, it should begin with papers written like this. The poor chap struggles on many levels when it comes to writing and this paper doesn’t come close to achieving what the author intends.

    • davidgrant

      Hi Patrick, I am “the poor chap” who wrote this. From the top. You said “everyone is claiming.” I am not seeing that. I believe the article states that the material was always available and some looked for it. Though Joseph’s polygamy was not generally known, it was not denied, and if it was covered, it was one of the poorest attempts to cover I have ever seen. I, too, never did buy the assumption that there was somehow a numbers problem and therefore polygamy was necessary for a time to correct the ratios. I do not know why polygamy was instituted. Lastly, the LDS church had no say in the writing or publication of this article. receives no direction, mandate or even commentary from the LDS church and is solely responsible for the content of the site.

      • Owen

        You need to keep in mind that for a long, long time polygamy was central for the church. We defended it. We collected evidence about it, specifically about Joseph’s polygamy because the RLDS denied it. Everyone knew it about us, and still do. How often have you heard about someone asking a missionary how many wives he has? The emphasis on Joseph and Emma’s relationship, a narrative that now overshadows the previous emphasis on proving and defending polygamy is a recent thing, like only a couple of generations old. The vast majority of people for whom this is a huge surprise are going to be under age 40. (Of course I made up that number, but it must be quite young.) The fascination with exactly how many wives this or that prophet had also seems to be a relatively new thing, perhaps having to do more with current culture than anything else. Who slept with whom used to be a much more private matter, not the stuff of reality TV.

  • Love the piece, your humility, and the grace with which you respond to opposition.

  • Meg Stout

    Amusing back and forth here.

    I’ve been blogging about all the gritty details over at Millennial Star since December 2013 – You can google Faithful Joseph and Meg Stout if you’re interested in reading the series.

    I guess my point is that we don’t have to just rely on confirmation from the spirit to understand that Joseph wasn’t the slime ball Brodie and others have painted him as being.

    • Key

      Aren’t you the “meat commerce” lady?

  • swoop

    A well written article but I feel like there are many issues with it and could be used as a case study in Cognitive Dissonance. Even if the Church didn’t overtly lie about polygamy they weren’t necessarily forthcoming with the information which, in my opinion, is still highly unethical. The absence of a “lie” doesn’t necessarily make their actions moral.

    My biggest problem I have,though, is how no one even bothers to question whether polygamy is even a moral practice, Divine Command theory seems to be the order of the day and that is very frightening.

    I also think your epistemology is flawed. Your attempts to discredit empiricism are mis-directed. Faith/Revelation is an awful epistemology and any attempt at approximating reality will only happen by accident using Revelation.

    Anyway, just my two cents

    • davidgrant

      Thanks, Swoop,

      I need more time to formulate a response to the “unethical” accusation. I hope to get to it soon.

      As far as the conclusion that polygamy is a moral practice is concerned, I have not made that claim. For me, there is enough historical and rational evidence to allow for that as a possibility, so I have left it open for now.

      Empiricism is highly unreliable as a way to know. People seeing the same data frequently come to opposite conclusions. We usually say that it must be the fault of one of the two people involved, but I think it is a systemic fault of empiricism. Having said that, I believe that empiricism should be generously used in the study of spiritual history. It is just important to know its limitations. I also have to disagree with you about revelation. I have found it to be a wonderful, reliable way of knowing reality.

      • Christopher Lee

        Reading the words “empiricism is highly unreliable as a way to know” from a man who is writing on a computer having his words read online by hundreds or thousands (or millions) of readers is laughable.

        It strikes me as supremely funny in this day of ultra thin laptops, smart phones, advanced medicine, when people poo poo the very means that made these things possible.

        Empiricism is why we have advanced technologically as a species. Engineers don’t pray about which circuit configuration is true. Biochemists don’t seek revelation about which drug formulation will be most effective.

        Yes, empiricism has led to wrong conclusions in the past. So has religion. The difference is that Empiricism/science does not demand that those false conclusions be believed in spite of conflicting evidence. When new evidence is obtained, the empiricist is compelled to adjust or abandon his views. Thus, the more we look the clearer the picture gets.

        • Anna Johnson

          Thank you. And AMEN!

          • s

            I agree.

        • s

          Thank You.

  • Lehi

    Hey David,
    Can you recommend some good historical sources about Joseph Smith? I have always loved studying history and have wanted to do more study of Joseph for a while now but haven’t known where to start. I’m looking into getting a copy of Rough Stone Rolling now but was wondering what other sources you would recommend. Thanks!

    • davidgrant

      Sure, Lehi. The list is huge, but I include here some of my favorites: The Autobiography of Parley P Pratt, The History of Joseph Smith by his Mother, The Book of Mormon Made Harder, By the Hand of Mormon. Also, the bibliography for Rough Stone Rolling is extensive and worthwhile. You may also want to get into issues of Times and Seasons and Millennial Star.

  • Silvia

    I enjoyed your perspective and reading your very personal spiritual experience with the Book of Mormon. To the normal lifetime member the facts that were given in the essays was new information. The fact they would say ‘months before she was fifteen’ was further evidence saying 14 years old was not palatable. I literally feel ill when I read D&C 132. It has nothing to do with our past and everything to do with today and our future. We are still practicing polygamy in our temples. Our doctrine today explains clearly that we believe in the celestial kingdom we will practice it. Everything I have read about it being discontinued was just complying with the laws of the land. Not that it wasn’t right. I believe that all throughout history men have justified multiple wives in the name of the lord. Ask yourself…if President Monson reintroduced polygamy in our next general conference. What would you do? OR if he said that polygamy has been an abomination all throughout history and that a man could be sealed to only one wife. What would you think?

    • davidgrant

      Thanks for the comment, Silvia. I am mot sure what I would do in the scenarios you describe. Polygamy has been difficult for me to grapple with as it has been for you. The contention of the article as written is that I can know of these things, have them remain unresolved for now, and still affirm that Joseph saw what he said he saw, was called of God, was a prophet and a good man.

    • Kylie

      Hi Silvia, I too have struggled with these thoughts on polygamy, so I caught to learn more about it in the scriptures. In Jacob 2:27-32 God commands them to put an end to polygamy and I particularly like verse 32 when it mentions how the women were crying, it reminds me that Heavenly Father loves His children both His sons and daughters and He truly wants us to be happy. There are times when polygamy in necessary simply for the building up of God’s nation and so at the beginning of the restoration God saw fit that this was necessary. I certainly hope that I never have to share my husband with another woman *shutter*, but I do find comfort in having trust in God’s love, I hope you can find the same comfort.

  • I agree with Elder Tad R. Callister. “I can live with some human imperfections, even among prophets of God- that is to be expected in mortal beings. I can live with some seeming historical anomalies; they are minor in the total landscape of truth. But I cannot live without the doctrinal truths and ordinances restored by Joseph Smith, I cannot live without knowing my wife and children are sealed to me for eternity. That is the choice we face- a few unanswered questions on one hand versus a host of doctrinal certainties and the power of God on the other.”

    I love the Lord and His Gospel.

  • Tyler Young

    David, thank you for taking time to reply to the many comments after your article. Your faith has served to build up mine.

  • BradDB

    Great article. I generally agree with most of the points. I will add…

    1- Detailed information about polygamy has been available, and even taught (in some circumstances) within the church for many, many years. I personally became aware of the details of Joseph Smith plural marriages during my high school years from a seminary teacher. A few years later, during a Church History class at a LDS Institute I was handed a worksheet with the names of all of Joseph Smith’s wives as part of a lesson on polygamy (I still have the worksheet). This class was taught by a well known, and respected instructor, many years before Bushman’s book was ever published. Today we just have much easier to access this information because we live in the world with high speed Internet, social media, and instant access to sites such as Wikipedia. It’s possible to stumbled across a headline in your newsfeed and in just a few seconds you can research the sordid details of an issue such as polygamy – surely that has happened much over the past couple of weeks.

    2- As someone very familiar with LDS history, there have been times where I’ve felt the church unnecessarily avoided the polygamy issue, rather than embrace it as part of our history. It’s subtle, but you certainly see it in some of the curriculum, and it’s very evident in a number of the movies and videos that the church has produced over the years (which often depict Joseph and Emma as an inseparable couple during the Nauvoo period). It would seem, with the release of these new essays, the church is changing it’s approach and making everything transparent and available. I personally welcome this new approach. I personally believe some of our more controversial doctrines and histories help define us as a religion (things like eternal progression and polygamy are uniquely Mormon).

    3- David Grant devoted a considerable amount of his article to discuss the Book of Mormon and it’s role in the consideration of people to join, leave, or remain in the church. At the end of the day, I believe this advice is spot on. The role the LDS faith plays in your life hinges of validity and truthfulness of the Book of Mormon, not on the number of women Joseph Smith married or the circumstances surrounding his plural marriages.

    3- Still, for those who may be struggling with polygamy and its origins, consider this… Where would the LDS church be today without polygamy? Do some research and trace back our history from the 1840’s until now. Polygamy is our history… it has defined our religion! With no polygamy, there’s no destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor, no martyrdom of Joseph Smith, and no trek west to the Rocky Mountains. A well versed PhD once said (I’m paraphrasing) Mormonism in the 1840’s was a movement, and in less than 150 years it became a global religion. How did this happen? It happened because polygamy pushed the LDS people into isolation of the Rocky Mountains, where they remained for 50-75 years before assimilating into the rest of society. During these two generations, the Utah Mormons built communities, constructed temples, solidified their doctrines, and established their culture, and worshipped their God. Without polygamy, Nauvoo, Illinois would (today) probably be a city of 3 million people, some of whom would practice a watered down religion… called Communities of Christ.

  • WhyNot

    Great article. We don’t throw away the Old Testament because Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had multiple wives. We don’t throw away Psalms in the Bible because David had at least seven wives and concubines also. We don’t throw away Proverbs because Solomon had 700 wives and concubines also. We don’t throw away the New Testament because Jesus’ mother was only 12-14 years of age when she gave birth to Jesus or because some say Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and perhaps also to Martha and her sister (another) Mary.

    Likewise, we would not throw away the Book of Mormon or other scriptures even if Joseph had consummated marriages with 40 women, which he did not. Very few of the 40 wives were in fulfillment of the more common literal interpretation of the scripture consistent commandment to “raise up seed unto the Lord.” It is highly probable that the rest of Joseph’s wives, including the polyandrous ones, were dynastic, social, fraternal, familial, adoptive type sealings for the next life. Marriage to teenage girls was much more common in those days than it is now. Juliet, of Romeo and Juliet fame was only 13 going on 14, The 14 year old girl sealed to Joseph was more mature for her age and her parents appear to have been behind that dynastic sealing. Most of Joseph’s wives were wives analogous to the way nuns are wives to Jesus Christ. Catholic nuns are called “Brides of Christ.”

    The above statements are based on positive interpretations of the historical data, not on the negative first glance, face value, outward appearance, literal interpretations of the historical data. “The letter killeth, but the Spirit giveth life.”

  • Adrian Arnould

    Thanks for the article. I read everithing I can on Joseph Smith. Unfortunately, I live in Uruguay, where the deepest thing we have translated into Spanish is TPJS and the EQ Manual. But, Alas! I have an american friend who gives me unrestricted access to his library. Thanks to this, my knowledge of Joseph and my testimony were able to withstand the attacks from the anti mormon armies. I am eager to make Joseph more and more familiar to me, and to be able to testify of the divine truth of his calling.

  • Robert

    Great Article, we just covered polygamy in my seminary class. I am 17 and a convert to the church, I am preparing to go on a mission for the Lord and I love everything that has to do with the Church, Jesus Christ, Joseph Smith, Temples, Prophets, Apostles, ect. I know that there is no knowledge hidden from man that God cannot give by guidance or revelation. (ask and ye shall receive, knock and it shall be given unto you) It is told to us although what we should ask for, and that we should do it in faith having our hearts in the right place when we ask. David, I had an experience similar to yours, so I’ll make my brief account of it.

    I was given a Book of Mormon by some LDS Missionaries after taking 1-2 lessons from them. They encouraged me to read it and pray to know if it was true. I was raised an atheist by my parents and I did not know how to pray or how to read scripture so that I could understand, but nevertheless I did what they asked me to o because I am a person of integrity. I read, prayed, and nothing happened. (I was not surprised, I didn’t have faith) The next day I met with the Elders again and they asked me what happened, were disappointed, and encouraged me to try again. This time I had some faith and prayed and still nothing happened. Frustrated because I knew they would probably ask me again, I decided to take the initiative. The next day I Read for 2 hours, stopped abruptly, put by hands around the book, and prayed. I asked God, if he was there, and if he was, to make this one simple truth known to me if he really did love me, that the Book of Mormon was true. Before I could even finish that prayer I felt peace like a light in the back of my head and I knew it was the Spirit. No sooner did I finish that prayer I was filled with doubt that I felt anything at all. I pondered and knew that doubt was darkness and cold, and that I wanted that warm feeling back.

    I know everyone feels the spirit differently, but how glad am I to know that God is real, he does answer prayers, he loves his children, and he has raised up his son to suffer for us so we don’t have to as long as we have faith in him. From the Spirit I received this testimony and a testimony of the man who translated it.

    For those who do not understand the *former* doctrine of polygamy, It is true Joseph smith had 30-40 Wives but were they really wives like we know? I’m sure they did not all live with him in one house, Joseph never had any children except with Emma, and they did not have contraception back then. in the Doctrine &Covenants of the Church, section 49 it reads in these verses 15-16:
    15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
    16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;

    It has been said that Joseph’s name will be had for “good and evil, among all nations kindreds and tounges, or that it should be both good and evil spoken of among all people.” (JSH 1:33) I love the man and I hope to be counted worthy with him, and shake his hand at the last day.

    I know there are parts of church history that are left out or omitted in missionary discussion but I concur that it is not relevant to know all things now “Behold, ye are little children and ye cannot bear all things now; ye must grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth.” (D&C 50:40)
    True knowledge and revelation do not come immediately or all at once, they grow ever so slightly, line upon line, precept upon precept. There’s a reason our school system including college, takes up 14-20 years of a person’s life: because we can’t learn that fast. imagine giving trigonometry to kindergartners, No, they must build up to that level. You are free at anytime to ask whatever question you so will, this is God’s gift called Agency, and the choice is yours whether you will have faith and pray for answers, and what sources you will look to for answers in your life. As for me, I choose the Lord, in him I will find truth and him I will obey.

    • Emily

      Thank you for your testimony. I am 17 and have been a member of the church for my whole life, but I have doubts of course. I feel that the church is right but the history of some of it doesn’t make sense to me. I appreciated reading your testimony and I’m really proud of your commitment to God. I know this church is good and I believe in the Savior with all my heart. Anyway, thanks for sharing.

    • marklay

      I read your comments as a life long member and had very distinct feelings come over me as I read. Thank you for adding to my faith.

    • Alanna Van Pelt

      Robert, thank you so much for your comments. They were beautiful and very well put. I can tell you will be a very thoughtful and great missionary. Thanks for your strength!

      • kiwikryssie

        Wow … out of the mouths of babes! ‘Babe’ of course in the sense you are so young and your membership in the church recent compared with the vast majority of the rest of us. I agree with Alaana. You will be a thoughtful and great missionary. We have a couple of recent converts who are similar to you in many ways. Wow! May the Spirit always dwell with you, especially when doubts and discouragement invade your beautiful soul. I too, like you, choose the Lord, His gospel and His church. I am grateful to Joseph Smith who was instrumental in its restoration for it has truly blessed my life. Thank you also, David, for your insightful commentary.

  • Davonte Williams

    I grew up in Chicago in a very poor family and area. I witnessed a lot of terrible things in my life and was beat, along with my mom and siblings by a drunk dad. I had a very hard life growing up. One day I saw two white boys walking around in my area, which was very abnormal. Out of curiosity of what they were doing I invited them in my home. They taught me about Jesus Christ, living prophets, a young boy named Joseph Smith and gave me a Book of Mormon. They challenged me to not take their word for it, but rather to find out for myself if Joseph Smith was a true prophet and if the Book of Mormon was true.
    At this point in my life I was very dissatisfied with life and had no idea where to look to make my life better. Later that night, I went to my bed, read a chapter from the Book of Mormon that seemed very interesting and peculiar. I did as the missionaries invited me to do to read, pray and ask God if the Book is true and if Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I was sincere with true curiosity and desire to get an answer one way or another. As I prayed and asked God something happened… something that changed my life forever and ever. I felt something that I had never felt before. I had a deep sense of warmth, happiness, almost an overwhelming feeling of hope… I couldn’t keep the tears from pouring out of my eyes and down my face. Since that time I have accomplished things that I never thought I could, got an education, achieved certain goals with my profession and much more. However, the most important thing to me is that I have a very happy family that is centered upon the love and teachings of Jesus Christ.
    Now concerning the controversy of Joseph Smith and his multiple wives. I cannot say that I fully understand why he had to have many wives, nor do I understand why many prophets and great people had multiple and many wives, however I do know with certainty, independent of all other sources that God lives, answers prayers and Joseph Smith was in fact a true prophet.
    Regardless of the debate and opposing opinions nobody can take the glorious conviction I have of the gospel of Jesus Christ that was restored through the prophet Joseph Smith.
    I have to paraphrase the words of Elder Jeffery R. Holland of the Quorum of Twelve Apostles regarding the Book of Mormon, no bad man could write such a marvelous, influential book, and no good man would write such a book, unless it was by the power of God and under his direction.

  • Cache Kid

    People who are ‘invested’ will continue to believe no matter what you show them, because they don’t want to lose their investment.

    Hence the long, drawn out convoluted excuses.

    • Rodney Ross

      Cache Kid,
      I went to a number of churches before joining the LDS Church. I have been a cynic mostly after my baptism. I have researched the life of Joseph Smith from a number of sources well as doctrine and practices. I have had countless questions, most of which have been answered, a few I’m still working on. I have found that what is long and drawn out, full of excuses and rationalizations, is the work of anti-Mormons and those who would intentionally distort the history of the Church to fit their own devises.

      The teachings and prophecies of the Prophet Joseph Smith are remarkable. Probably the most remarkable is the statement regarding the Church, “It will cover the Earth.” This statement was made the day when the Church was organized with six members. Today it is reality. Also remarkable is the statement that Joseph Smith’s name will be had for good and evil throughout the nations of the Earth. That prophecy has been fulfilled even in this essay and the comments here.

      There is a power in this Church which is why it has grown so remarkably. There is a great strength in its members. You want to dismiss us as an insecure people who do not want to lose our investment. But we are not an insecure people. We know what we know; it goes beyond belief. What has been stated in this article is not an excuse, but honest and well thought out.

      Since you view it differently, that’s fine, but I urge you, as the article says, to get to know Joseph Smith not just on one assumption, but get to know the entire man. It is very possible that you opinion of him will change.

      I wish you well.

    • Jesse Bardsley

      Hi Cache Kid,

      I just wanted to throw in a word about your comment. I feel like it it is intellectually condescending of you to assume that any given believer in Joseph Smith hasn’t realized the general principle you are describing, and taken measures to counteract it. What you say is true for some people, but I feel like I realized that principle from about the time I was a young teenager, and overcompensated to prevent it from affecting me. It is a known principle of economics that sunk costs should not affect decision-making, and members of the Church are not such an uneducated bunch. My experience has been that sometimes, faith struggles have taken me to the point where I actually wanted the Church (my investment, as you put it) to not be true, because I was tired of struggling for it. It was just too hard, and it would have been easier to start new on some other path. Many times I said to God, and/or my innermost self, that if there was something more true, I was ready to move on. But always, I have returned to the Church, because there is no other source for what I am looking for. We will see what happens in the end (or, if we die and end up not existing I guess we won’t see) but I have confidence in that still, small voice that leads me on. Whether in our out of the Church, I hope you have or will make a connection with that inner voice, because without it, there is no point to life anyway!

  • Rod

    Great article. History is such a fascinating thing since what we “know” about it comes only from the left overs that we happen to still have after the fact. Thus the sources we accept and our interpretation of it frequently tells us a lot about ourselves.

  • Davonte Williams

    Now that if seems like almost everyone has talked about the negative, what about the possitive? I grew up in a very poor family in Chicago. My dad was a drunk that would beat on me, my mom and my family. I lived and witnessed a lot if terrible things in my life that millions of families are experiencing. Two Mormon boys came to my house and started teaching us about Jesus Christ. I remember when they started talking about a young boy named Joseph Smith. The missionaries told me and my family to read the Book of Mormon that they gave us, pray and ask God if it was true and ask God if Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I was truly seeking with real intent because I knew there was much better out there than what I was experiencing, and I wanted to find whatever it was. Later that night I took the book read a chapter and prayed afterwards and asked if it was true and if Joseph Smith really was a true prophet. What happened to me changed my life so dramatically for the good. Something touched so deep into my soul. It was a very warm, comforting feeling that brought tears to my eyes. Since then, My life changed and I know have a happy family and honestly couldn’t ask for a better life.
    I tell you all right now, that the gospel of Jesus Christ was restored in the earth, and Joseph Smith was an imperfect person that was an instrument in God’s hands.
    The glorious thing is, I know Joseph was imperfect, just like you and I, but what I know to be true independent of what anybody else says is that Joseph Smith was a true prophet. I have known that he had multiple wives for a long time, and even though I don’t understand completely why he had to have those wives and why ancient prophets in the bible had to have many wives as well, but I trust what God has revealed to me and the depths if my spirit is true and nobody can ever take that away from me. It has made my life amazing. I am grateful to the prophet Joseph for doing what he did, so that my family and I can enjoy what we have in our lives

    • Jesse Bardsley

      Thank you for that testimony!

  • Mattie

    Thank you for your answer and perhaps because it came from a woman, I can relate more with you or perhaps the simple and straight forward way you talked.
    I love how you took us back to the reality of what life was really like at that time, you stated facts not personal perception.

  • I felt the same way when reading the book. “Why ask the Lord again if He has already made manifest the truth to me the entire time as I read it”? But I did anyway. My answer was, “You already know.”

    I read the Book of Mormon mainly to continue to feel those feelings described by Christensen because they have become so automatic for me. Nothing brings peace to me like the reading of that book does.

    There was a short period in my life where certain discoveries in church history made me concerned. I plead with the Lord one last time to guide me. He did. I will never forget one Sunday morning shortly thereafter, I was sitting in a Sacrament meeting when I was randomly overcome with the strongest most powerful divine message that came to me in the form of the feelings I have come to know as being of the Holy Ghost. The impression was, Regardless of anything that can be found to discredit His work, it is true. Joseph Smith was His prophet and everything he said he was. I sat there and cried. I now know and will never doubt again.

  • GP

    David, I honestly don’t know where to start in replying to this article. Maybe I’ll just touch on a few points and then leave it at that.

    “It takes significant hubris and arrogance to proclaim that knowledge received from spiritual sources originates in the person having those experiences.”

    On the contrary… the church tells members how to classify spiritual experiences. When someone asks if the church is true, and the answer is “yes”, then it is of God. When the question is unanswered or the answer is “no”, then you must try again or it is of the devil. In reality, there is no differentiation between the spirit felt by LDS church members and those of other faiths. So I would actually pin the arrogance on members of the church who claim a superior spiritual message above those of other faiths while using circular reasoning. This is a point that cannot be refuted without circular reasoning… and is probably the single most important topic in this discussion because finding truth through empirical evidence, logic, and reasoning are replaced with a faulty and unreliable indicator for truth. Think of Paul H. Dunn… many “felt the spirit” in his talks, yet they were significantly embellished and sometimes outright false. Could anyone tell the difference? Nope. Even Joseph Smith couldn’t tell the difference of his “revelation from the devil” when church leaders unsuccessfully traveled to Canada to sell the copyright of the BoM.

    As for your own journey, it seems like you have contradicted yourself by asserting that the church has been open about Joseph’s polygamy/polyandry, yet mention that you learned and Don Bradley learned about this at BYU later in life. What about those who did not go to BYU? What about you learning it later in life? Your citing of Rough Stone Rolling in 2005 is a recent development and could have landed Bushman in hot water like other historians before him. Church members have been counseled to not focus on church history with a downplay on historical importance versus “faith-promoting history” (see Boyd K. Packer, “The Mantle is Far, Far Greater Than the Intellect”). The three sources you have cited do not represent the complete *details* in the historical record. Nowhere in any church manuals are Joseph Smith’s polygamy/polyandry details covered, and the latest Joseph Smith manual in PH/RS doesn’t even utter a breath of Joseph practicing polygamy. Given these conditions, how will a faithful member find these details without deviating from the correlated narrative and spending significant time researching history that they’ve been advised to avoid and has been labeled as “anti-Mormon lies”? Of course, the absence of these details in the official record and the plentiful supply of information on the internet was the catalyst for the polygamy essay.

    Lastly, let’s sidestep the items of substance for a moment… your article comes off as arrogant and condescending. Might I suggest that you develop some empathy for your fellow brothers and sisters who were unaware and are NOT “ok” with the unsavory church history. I must say, it must be quite an achievement for you to reconcile the details of Joseph’s polygamy/polyandry. If that works for you, then fine. As for others, what else do you expect from those who did not know Joseph’s polygamy/polyandry details and have been taught a very high moral standard at church? Do you expect people to just accept marrying teenage girls and other living men’s wives without question? I’d suggest developing some empathy and trying a different approach. You don’t have to agree with those who have a different conclusion than yours; however, at least try to understand where the individual is coming from. Even Joseph Smith made it clear that we need to think for ourselves and not follow priesthood authorities unquestionably:

    “We have heard men who hold the priesthood remark that they would do anything they were told to do by those who preside over them (even) if they knew it was wrong; but such obedience as this is worse than folly to us; it is slavery in the extreme; and the man who would thus willingly degrade himself, should not claim a rank among intelligent beings, until he turns from his folly. A man of God would despise the idea. Others, in the extreme exercise of their almighty authority have taught that such obedience was necessary, and that no matter what the saints were told to do by their presidents, they should do it without any questions. When the Elders of Israel will so far indulge in these extreme notions of obedience as to teach them to the people, it is generally because they have it in their hearts to do wrong themselves.”
    – Joseph Smith, Millennial Star, Vol. 14, Num. 38, pp.593-595

    Best wishes to you on your spiritual journey.

    • davidgrant

      GP, Thank you for your thoughtful response. I have slightly edited your comment removing the video link. I hope you understand. I stand by my comment that it is foolish to suggest that revelation should be scrapped as an knowledge source due to its inability to be applied objectively, consistently and repeatably. Throwing out revelation would be akin to throwing out empiricism because it frequently yields contradictory results. Further, I do not agree with your assertion that the feelings of LDS and members of other faiths are identical at least in my experience. Your Paul H. Dunn point is interesting. I have to admit that as a child, I enjoyed his talks because of the way they made me feel. I have since had to learn how to distinguish between emotion and revelation although the one frequently accompanies the other. For me, they are distinguishable. Finally, to say that Joseph Smith could not tell the difference between revelation from God and from the devil is false. You could correctly say that there were instances when Joseph Smith acted in ways he believed to be true but were in fact false.

      To your second paragraph, I do not see the self-contradiction. I also think you overstate your position in several places. For one, I have never heard of anyone, let alone official church sources, calling the history of polygamy “anti-mormon lies.” Perhaps it happened; I just don’t know of an instance. I maintain that the church has been about testimony delivery and not history delivery. I am not sure about this, but I believe that FARMS which began in the early 1980’s would have contained polygamy information early in its history. I would have to check on that. If polygamy essays were in existence, they would have preceded Bushman’s book. I agree with your final point that the amount of information on the internet was the catalyst to the publication of the essays.

      Thank you for calling me out on the arrogance and condescension. My opinions and convictions have been tempered and modified by many who are not able to reconcile as I can. I only meant to give a faithful narrative of the way it is for me. I certainly meant no condescension or disrespect. I too, wish you the best in your spiritual journey.

    • JW

      Thank you, GP, for saying what I wanted to say but probably could not have phrased as well.

  • Great points and great article. I recently wrote a post for Mormon Women Stand about some misconceptions I’ve seen about the Church’s Topics articles on polygamy. One point I elaborated on in my article, and I think is important to make is that it is not the Church’s job to provide a detailed history. There are many LDS historians, researchers, and other organizations that fill that role. The Church’s role is to declare doctrine, not history. And with that goal in mind, that’s why you’ll notice lessons focus so much on application in addition to the brief history it provides — because members likely need application. Church was never meant to be a just a three-hour history lesson, as interesting as that might be.

    Criticizing the Church for not publishing every detail of its history is like criticizing the federal government for not publishing more American History text books. It is just not its job. Other people and organizations fulfill that role. And that’s OK. We just need to be better consumers of the information that already exists.

    Here’s where I explain my thoughts in more detail if anyone is interested:

    Again, thank you so much for this article. And for anyone who is struggling with this issue, I hope they can find the peace the seek–be it by either delving into the history, or “putting it on the shelf” for the time being.

    • Juan

      I agree with you that it is not the church’s job to publish detailed history of the church. The problem in my case is that when I asked general authorities about this fact he looked at me in the eye and said that those things were lies. and I was told not to follow those sources. Well it happened that the sources were right and the GA was wrong.

      • davidgrant

        Juan, not having been there I cannot comment on your experience. I will say that in private discussions I have accused many purveyors of historical narratives of at least having biased, destructive agendas, not because the historical facts were in question, but because the interpretation and delivery of them were factually and logically fallacious.

  • Kate

    So, if this is all common knowledge, I am wondering why the church leaves it out of videos about Joseph Smith and investigator discussions. Is lying by omission in the name of converting people really ethical?

    Never once did I see a church video with his translation portrayed correctly with a rock in the hat. Never did I see a video portraying an angel with a flaming sword visiting about polygamy or in which he was married to anyone other than emma. Never did I see a video of the beginnings of the church where he did not talk about the first vision for 12 years. Never did I see a video that portrayed the treasure digging circumstances he met emma under, etc. I don’t think the “it was there for who wanted to look” works when it is (assumingly) purposefully kept out of all proselytizing materials and purposefully kept from potential converts. Lying by omission is still lying by our standards. Many say it is deemed unimportant in the grand scheme but obviously for many it is a hurdle the church has not prepared them to handle. I am sure many converts would have like to known all this stuff before joining. If it really is so easily accounted for and explained, then the church would have no need to keep this information out of manuals and Sunday school lessons and missionary discussions to investigators. Omitting information for whatever purpose is still lying. It’s like a witness in a criminal case lying to protect their family. “I didn’t think that seeing my dad pull the trigger was important to share in their trial because I love him and want to protect him and know he couldn’t take prison.” Lying is lying.

    • davidgrant

      Hi Kate, I have to disagree with your statement that omission is lying. History, life, teaching, is all interpretive activity. You are selective every day when you give a narrative of any kind. You make judgements on what is and is not relevant then communicate what you perceive are the relevant items. If you are writing a testimony piece or bearing witness, you will likely include things that got you to the point of being able to bear witness. The points will be predominantly positive. I would not call that lying.

      • Owen

        Those videos also leave out the entire Old Testament, which is full of things people might object to. Also, it leaves out how well or poorly the pioneers followed the Word of Wisdom. And tithing. And a million other things that just aren’t relevant to the story.

    • Davonte Williams

      When you are eating ice cream do you think of every unhealthy ingredient or think about how good it tastes? When you are eating a nice big juicy steak, do you think about them killing the cow and slicing it up or do you think about how delicious it tastes? How about when you receive something that brings you closer to God, increases your happiness and changes your life (like this church and gospel did to me) do you want to continue forward knowing the really important stuff first allowing your testimony to grow first or go into the deep, complexed stuff first?
      Call me weird but I would rather know all of this is true first, and then get into the other contraversial stuff. Now no matter what you all say, I know for myself, directly from God, independent of all other sources that the gospel is and that Joseph Smith really was a true prophet. I don’t know any more why Joseph Smith had to have multiple wives than why the ancient prophets in the bible had multiple wives as well. But I know that it came from God to benefit His children in some way or another. I know Joseph Smith was imperfect like you and I, but regardless of his imperfections, I know that he was a true prophet because I am a witness of the power and goodness that the gospel brings to my life.
      A bad man couldn’t have brought the good that he did, and a good man wouldn’t, unless it was from God!

    • Ryan Gardner

      According to your definition of honesty it is impossible for anyone to be honest, and God is a chronic liar. For example, the scriptures do not include an account of the
      creation of the entire universe (or universes). They only provide a partial and incomplete account of the creation of this earth. The following verses illustrate this most clearly:

      “And he beheld many lands; and each land was called earth, and there were inhabitants on the face thereof. And it came to pass that Moses called upon God, saying: Tell me, I pray thee, why these things are so, and by what thou madest them? And behold, the glory of the Lord was upon Moses, so that Moses stood in the presence of God, and talked with him face to face. And the Lord God said unto Moses: For mine own purpose have I made these things. Here is wisdom and it remaineth in me.” (Moses 1:29-31)

      “But only an account of this earth, and the inhabitants thereof, give I unto you. For behold, there are many worlds that have passed away by the word of my power. And there are many that now stand, and innumerable are they unto man; but all things are numbered unto me, for they are mine and I know them.” (Moses 1:35)

      Also, was Jesus lying when he taught in parables? Those who had ears to hear were able to hear what God wanted them to hear. One can only receive what their preparation qualifies them to receive. The Sunday school lessons are designed to meet the needs of the lowest common denominator, but those who are prepared will receive far more than the words that are spoken would seem to convey. We all reap what we sow, and it’s no great secret that Sunday school will not provide any one of the many church members with everything that is needed or wanted. “The Church” is not synonymous with the general authorities of the church. Given the abundance of material that has been made available through the sacrifice of many church members it is unnecessary for every inconsequential detail to be collected and disseminated through official church channels or sources.

  • Jay

    Thank you for the article, David Grant. I began reading the article with skepticism but by the end I found that you had a valuable perspective. I did, however, want to point to two grammatical issues that you may want to fix (people judge the accuracy of an argument too often by correlating it to the accuracy of grammar).

    1. There’s a subject-verb agreement problem in the paragraph about Richard Bushman. It should be “has” not “have” in those two instances.

    2. In the paragraph that begins “A shallow perusal,” I think the term “browsing” may be a better term than “perusal.” To peruse is one of those commonly misused words and means to study extensively and thoroughly, though people for some reason often use it to imply an opposite definition. “Shallow perusal” is somewhat of an oxymoron since doing something extensively and thoroughly would suggest depth and not shallowness. To shallowly examine sources would be browsing them, not perusing them.

    Again, thank you for the article. The part that stands out to me is your commentary on the questions we ask. I find your suggestion that certain types of questions will constrain certain types of answers to be accurate and compelling. I would be interested in some follow up and expansion on this issue. I think it would be helpful for people to see where certain questions will take them and to be presented with some examples of both those questions that could potentially lead toward disbelief and those questions that could potentially lead toward belief. If the conversation could back away from the conclusions reached to the questions asked, I think maybe these thorny historical issues would be more navigable for people encountering them for the first time.

    • davidgrant

      Thanks, Jay. I did not know that about “perusal” and have made the changes you indicated. I agree with the need for a question asking discussion. The assumptions we bring to bear will necessarily influence our conclusions. Perhaps I can get to it in December or you could write about it. If you would like to do that, please let me know.

  • Heidi

    We don’t talk about this in Sunday School, Relief Society and meetings not because we are trying to hide anything in history, this topic has 100% nothing to do with our salvation and nothing to do with the challenges we face in 2014. Our having faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and having a personal relationship with the Lord does. Encouraging scripture study, prayer, baptism, repentance, serving others and to reach your highest potential these things are the important things.

    Plural marriage has been practiced through the ages in many cultures outside of the United States from Abraham to Moses, to Solomon, David and others throughout the bible. The church has never hidden the fact that it practiced polygamy or that this was repealed in the late 1800’s. Think about history in the United States at the time and the origins of the church and all the things that were happening to the church. The men and leaders left to serve missions, were thrown into prison, many were shot and many died along the way to Salt Lake City. Several left to help in territorial wars in what had yet to become the United States. The ratio of men to women were vastly different.

    Think about this historically, from the 1500’s to the mid 1800’s women married on average between 14 and 16 years of age. Towards the later 1800’s and early 1900’s this shifted to approximately 22 years of age. During this time women were not allowed to have a voice in this country, did not have the same educational or career opportunities as men, were not allowed to vote, nor were they able to own property. So if you were born a woman, had faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ, had a father who did not believe or did not have a spouse there was 100% no way to survive during this time if you didn’t have a family sponsor and had faith in the restored gospel.

    Plural marriage was ordained and allowed for this short period of time not only for the religious implications, but also for practicality and legal reasons in order to provide for many. It and had strict conditions placed on it. 1) The prophet had to call you to this practice. It was not to be taken on of one’s self. 2) The wife had to agree to it. When lived appropriately this was not forced upon anyone. I am sure this was very difficult for Emma Smith to live. It would be difficult for me, but then the Lord has asked me to do many things in my lifetime that I was not thrilled at the time to do, but my life was blessed and in retrospect I was grateful for the opportunities I had. I have read family histories of leaders who the prophet had called to live this law. These men were heartbroken and did not want to live this law nor did they want to go to their wives and tell them what was being asked of them. Many times when these men arrived home without saying anything their wives said that they had received their own inspiration from the Lord that this was something their family was to practice. Typically only the wealthiest members were called to practice this law as they had the resources of supporting these types of families.

    If the members had lived this law appropriately there should have only been about 5% of church members practicing this because between 3 and 5% of members were called to live it by the prophet. However, there were many who pridefully took this upon themselves and were not called by the prophet. Some wanted to live this law and sought after it themselves and did force this on their families and this was beginning to happen in great numbers (around 30%). These problems in addition to Utah wanting to join with the United States led to the inspiration and decision that plural marriage was not to be practiced going forward and that all practices of it must cease. Anyone entering into that lifestyle following the new mandate was to be excommunicated.

    What is interesting to me is how much the world is pointing fingers at what a horrible practice plural marriage was, when at the time it kept women from starving and being homeless at a time in history when there weren’t other options (welfare didn’t exist) and when every person in that relationship chose to be there (when lived correctly) and it took HUGE commitment to live in that manner. And then when it was being abused and not treated the way it was supposed to be it was repealed. That is taking responsibility. It was not the disgusting practice shown to the world by Warren Jeffs. And because it wasn’t that way it has no bearing on what we are faced with today.

    Having Christian values in a society where divorce is prevalent, men and women are encouraged to have multiple sexual partners before “settling down”, couples living together without a marriage commitment, the damaging effects of pornography, websites that encourage married individuals to cheat on their partners, where the intentional removal of a baby from a womb because it is considered an “inconvenience”, where depression, bullying, suicide and drug use is running rampant is very difficult. These are the things that are relevant and that we have to navigate through. These are the issues we talk about and see how the gospel can help us through these challenges. The beauty of ongoing revelation is it keeps us focused on the now and how the gospel can help us today. Just like Noah’s Ark, the revelations Joseph Smith received about plural marriage were relevant then for his time, it kept women and families alive, and it came to an end.

    Those who want to point fingers and make something disgusting out of anything have that capability, but it doesn’t change the fact that God lives, Jesus Christ is the Savior, that we can find peace in him and living the commandments gives us stability, less complications and fewer negative consequences in our lives and can help us live productively.

    • Maggie

      I 100% agree with this and have argued many of these viewpoints myself! Great comment!

    • Patti Steed

      Excellent comment that focuses on truth. The truth about polygamy, revelation, the gospel and “current events”. With an eye singular to those things God would be having us do today, it is a pity the Adversary does his best to distract us from those most important things. Politely and truthfully answer the questions of those who sincerely seek enlightenment on past history, then find out where in the seekers heart the questions are coming from.

    • Melissa

      This is the best comment I believe I’ve ever read on any thread is any article. Thank you for this; it has helped me a great deal today.

    • Melissa

      Excellent explanation Heidi. It was very inspirational, clear and to “The point” to read.

    • Melissa

      Thank you Heidi, your comment is very clear, and to “The point” to read.

    • Neville

      I to completely agree with your positive response.There is a place for both the empirical and revelatory approach to this and all gospel issues. Worked together they act to re-enforce one another and individual spiritual enlightenment.

    • Gary

      Great comment! It’s better than I could have explained as that’s how I would have wanted to explain my thoughts on this subject to any person interested in learning of it.

    • Laurel

      Heidi – I respect your strong conviction. It’s nice to hear. However, it’s time we stop propagating the misconception that polygamy was practiced because there were more women than men. That simply was NOT the case. (It would be so much easier to accept if that were the case!) I totally understand the need for us to comprehend the “why” behind everything that God commands, but this one seriously just has to be taken on faith. The one reason we’re given for polygamy ever being practiced is in Jacob 2:30 (“For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people…”), and there is no evidence that Joseph had a single child with any of his polygamous wives. There is truly no logical explanation behind polygamy. I understand why many look at it suspiciously. I admire your faith and acceptance of the past, but teaching the “reasons” behind polygamy as you stated above may result in people latching onto faulty logic. Seeking for a spiritual witness, amidst unappealing truth makes for a more solid foundation than creating answers based on our limited understanding.

  • Brett

    David, thank you for your thoughtful article. These are complicated issues. I am a lifelong member of the church and while I was fully aware of polygamy and the issues and doctrines in D and C 132, the details of polygamy, polyandry, teenage brides etc. only became known to me recently. I read RSR when it was first published and started on a painful journey at that time that has left me in a very different place from yourself. I have had powerful “spiritual” experiences as well, but the evidence against the truth claims of the church seem overwhelming to me. I am now unwilling to say ” I know” where it comes to such claims. The mysteries of life and this universe are vast and complex and the answers to those deep questions provided by mormonism no longer seem congruent with what we know of our universe from big ban to hubble. I hope you can keep your shelf intact if it brings you true happiness, as for me and many others, there is no going back and we are happier for it.

    • davidgrant

      Brett, thanks for your candor and kind way of expressing your thoughts. I am sorry that we have not ended up at the same place but am glad that you have found peace. As I mentioned, there was and is sufficient evidence for me for there to be a wide enough opening created for spiritual work to occur. The Book of Mormon is particularly astonishing as testimony, literature and eschatology. If you ever find yourself leaning in another direction, I would love to chat with you about it.

      Blessings to you,


  • Else

    Great article. Sadly from the comments it’s sometimes like the scripture, do you cast your pearls before swine? I know Joseph Smith was an imperfect man, and I also know I don’t know everything, but I do know that I can not discredit the things I do know to be true because I may have a few doubts or uncertainty of things that happened in church history, with or without connection to Joseph Smith. What would I say to my maker when He asks me about the things I knew to be true that I threw away? Thanks for a great read.

  • It’s true that this information has been available for decades. . . but only from anti-Mormons.

    Anyone who knew about Joseph’s 40 wives and 14 year-old bride before these essays found out solely because they blatantly disregarded the prophets’ admonishments to avoid anti-Mormon material.

    • davidgrant

      Not so. As mentioned in the article, anyone who bought Richard Bushman’s book could read all of it.

      • Yoda

        Yeah, but wasnt Richard (and other LDS historians) excommunicated for sharing this, thus he became an “anti-Mormon” and his material thus associated as “anti-mormon” to many of us devout Mormons automatically falls into the “fiction” category of literature. We are told not to watch, listen or read anti mormon literature, so your premise that this information was available to us was “only” from anti-mormons as far as the church is concerned. Never in a manual, never in a talk, never openly available. In fact attempts by Boyde K Packer was to make it hidden saying that “I have a hard time with historians because they idolize the truth. The truth is not uplifting; it destroys.” and “”Some things that are true are not very useful.” He would only say that because he was concealing the truth, giving a version of the story that he felt that people should hear.

        Is it ok with you if the US Common Core education re-write history to favor the democrats? eg Northeastern Illinois University has a plaque on a building saying – “THIS BUILDING IS DEDICATED TO PUBLIC SERVICE HONORING THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN DEMOCRAT.” they are justifying it by saying he supported democracy, but only if challenged. They are willing to let the student go on believing he was a democrat in the political asylum. The Uni will say “we aren’t lying” but any reasonable man would admit this is deceptive rhetoric. What does. The very fact that you felt a need to write this blog, is an attempt to apologize to the deception that the church gave us…your blog is witness to it otherwise if it was all open & honest why would you bother.

        The essay would not have been required and the church would have freely shared and endorsed the writings of Richard saying…we never hid it. OMISSION IS LYING no matter how you try to twist it. Its never taught in discussions, the version of Joseph translating with his head in his hat is never taught in church or missionary discussion. My son is on his mission right now, they teach the lie version, his converts will find out later and believe he lied to them. So should he say to them.. “Hey I never lied, I just didnt tell you the truth, if you really wanted to find out the truth you would have done some of your own study…there’s a book you’ve never heard about that told us everything, you should have found that book”

        I have seen many apologists like yourself blame LDS for not doing their own research and knowing for themselves, but until recently, where does one find out? My dad was very dedicated, Branch President & Stake President in Australia, he dedicated his whole life to his last breath to sharing the Gospel, he read more than anyone I knew, took note, taught seminars on church history, we have libraries of books he collected over the years. Not one book shared this information, he died recently not ever knowing about the hat translations and the polyandry etc etc.

        The only reason why LDS teachers dont lie about the real church history, is that they didn’t know, they only taught what they were exposed to.

        • davidgrant

          Hi Yoda, Richard Bushman was not excommunicated for writing his book. The only scuttlebutt I heard on that matter is that some BYU professors were a little annoyed at his attempt to make his book palatable to secular scholars and not infused with testimony. I personally loved his book and I know several faithful mormon scholars who believe the same. I have to disagree with you that “omission is lying.” Omission occurs in every narrative. People report what they find relevant and what they believe are the most relevant points for their audience. Just so you know, when I taught institute some time ago as an adjunct teacher, I covered “hat translation” polyandry, etc. “Hat translation” was reported in several places in readily available, historical documents. I have no problem with the “hat translation” process and readily teach, “Some witnesses to the translation process described Joseph setting a seer stone into a hat then, probably to block out light, placed his face in the hat to see the translation.” Still, I am sympathetic to your concerns, and I did have to leave the well-beated, correlated path to find out the things you mentioned. I just did not have to look that far. I hope you will seek primary sources, read deeply and seek rational and revelatory knowledge in your quest.

          • Yoda

            What do you call readily available, you can only know whats readily available if someone tells you about it. AS we are taught to only source out “LDS” material the ready available stuff wasn’t published or encouraged by the church, it was well hidden and only seekers of the hidden truths were able to source it. The “Primary” sources which is church approved material – Manuals etc do not teach the truths that the essays have written today, if you say it was readily available I repeat, there would be no need for the essays. The essays came about because they couldn’t hide things anymore, They had to confess publicly that anti-Mormons had the story correct because of the internet. If you cheated on your wife, and didn’t tell her…but she didn’t have the thought to even ask you if you cheated…by your standard you are setting here, “omission isnt lying” right?

            BTW I applaud you that you havent censored the comments that arent in favor of your blog unlike another blog that I commented on and he falsely accuses me of being an exmormon, and wouldnt approve my comment, but Im a current Temple Recommend holder being revealed the truth of the history for the first time. It wasnt because I was lazy, I was told not to watch listen or read anti-Mormon stuff and just listen to the prophets. I didnt know what I didnt know, and didnt know to seek out books on things I didnt know. In Australia before the internet, these books were not available to us, otherwise my father would have found them for sure

          • davidgrant

            Hi Yoda, I had a rather lengthy answer written but want to give it more thought before I post. I am sympathetic to your concerns as presented and will get back to you soon.

        • Jesse Bardsley

          Hi Yoda,

          I searched your quote from Elder Packer, and found a FairMormon article about it. Apparently, the “quote” is second-hand from Michael Quinn. He said Elder Packer said that to him in a private interview. Coming from someone hostile to the Church, I wouldn’t trust the accuracy of that quote (all I’m saying is that he has a motive/emotional reason to twist his memory of the conversation a bit, whether deliberately or not).

        • brother Chandler

          Hi Yoda,
          in your post (below) you wrote:
          “the ready available stuff wasn’t published or encouraged by the church, it was well hidden and only seekers of the hidden truths were able to source it. The “Primary” sources which is church approved material – Manuals etc do not teach the truths that the essays have written today, if you say it was readily available I repeat, there would be no need for the essays. ”

          If something was “hidden” how did so many people find it so long ago? I’m grateful the church published the essays so people who are preoccupied with this can access it from a credible website. Being preoccupied with this is something I choose not to do.

          The Church of Jesus Christ exists to teach us about Jesus the Christ and His perfect traits, NOT to teach us Joseph Smith’s imperfect traits. If we focus on Joseph’s mortal traits we run the real risk of “looking beyond the mark” which Jacob said led the Jews to “stiffneckedness…despising the words of plainness…seeking for things we cannot understand …. spiritual blindness, and eventually to “stumble”.

          I hope you don’t let satan stir the soil of your heart so that his seeds of discord and doubt can take root.
          God bless you, brother.

          • OKRickety

            “The Church of Jesus Christ exists to teach us about Jesus the Christ and His perfect traits, NOT to teach us Joseph Smith’s imperfect traits.”

            Avoiding imperfect traits of believers seems rather inconsistent with the contents of the Bible. For example, David’s sinful behavior and his repentance associated with Bathsheba is clearly used to teach us how to live. In the New Testament, there are the Apostle Peter’s three denials of Christ. These failures are not avoided by the LDS (e.g. David’s sins are in LDS PRIMARY 6: OLD TESTAMENT LESSON 30, and Peter’s denials in LDS PRIMARY 7: NEW TESTAMENT LESSON 31). If these are not avoided in LDS teaching but instead are used as opportunities for teaching truth, why would Joseph Smith’s “imperfect traits” be avoided?

            Perhaps it is not Satan stirring the soil of Yoda’s heart, but it is actually the Holy Spirit, giving opportunity for the truth to take root.

      • David

        Certainly, David, you must agree that talk of Joseph’s polygamy and marriage to multiple teenagers and other men’s wives was discouraged among the faithful. There were many sources one could read about it, but as you know, speaking of it was definitely frowned upon.

  • Lauren

    Love this article, excellent points.

  • Sker

    Polygamy, polyandry, lying to Emma, coercing Emma to accept polygamy, accusing people who called him on his polygamy of being polygamists or adulterer etc, anti-banking society failure, treasure digging, peep stone, Book of Abraham not translated correctly from scrolls, Book of Mormon containing horses and steel and metal coinage…

    “One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

    ― Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark

    • davidgrant

      That is a very selective catalogue, Sker. Not mentioned are any responses to the list and ignored are the positive evidences. Your quote is also selectively applied.

    • Dave

      The Sagan quote would be aptly applied to either political party and just about any politician.

  • Bob

    The author learned of these issues in his early 20s… Which would have been right about the time he came home from a mission. I, too, learned of this after my mission. It turns out all the lying anti-Mormons who told me Joseph’s polygamy weren’t lying anti-Mormons after all.

    The Church is guilty of sin of omission, in the least.

  • Steve

    I don’t understand. If Joseph Smith’s being a polygamist, practicing polyandry and marrying 14 year old girls wasn’t hidden, then why did he need to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor again?

    • James

      I remember the missionary discussions about how the Expositor was destroyed for espousing lies…which the church NOW says are true.

      Somebody owes somebody a new printing press.

      • davidgrant

        I don’t recall the missionary discussion even mentioning the Expositor. Were you on the receiving or giving end of the discussions? Equally applied redress would be interesting.

      • Meg Stout

        Have you read the Expositor? I have. Those were lies.

        Have you read the testimony of the women Dr. Bennett was seducing in 1842? Have you read the high council record that talks about all the women who were being seduced? Have you read Dr. Bennett’s History of the Saints, which is completely inconsistent with all other records written by anyone, including apostates?

        Joseph wasn’t telling all, I strongly believe because it isn’t game to go announcing who is disfellowshipped and why from the pulpit. The only time he got into it was over the matter of Sarah Pratt. And we have the affidavit from non-Mormon Backenstos that Bennett was doing Sarah Pratt in July 1841. Not Joseph.

        The Expositor was an opposition attempt to get Joseph killed. And they succeeded. And since my ancestor was one of the leaders of that conspiracy, you needn’t think I’m saying that just because I’m a good little duped Mormon, or anything like that.

    • davidgrant

      Hi Steve, if your point is that there were times when people that attempted to hide polygamy, you would be right. I think in most cases, the decision was driven out of fear of persecution.

      • Steve

        Not just “people”. Joseph Smith himself repeatedly denied it. He lied while under oath, saying that he only had one wife. But the reality is that he had many wives dating back to before the “sealing power” was restored. And all of these marriages were illegal because Illinois state law only permitted one spouse. So much for “honoring, obeying and sustaining the law”.

        • davidgrant

          As the article mentions, Joseph had flaws and sins. He disclosed several in his history and even in the Doctrine and Covenants. Some of the incidents you mention could be sins and others may have divine direction, I am not in a position to know which is which. What I do know is that his flaws and sins do not and did not disqualify him from his calling and mission.

          • Steve

            David, I am confused. You say that you don’t know whether specific actions by Joseph Smith were commanded by God, or sins on his part, yet even if they were sins they wouldn’t disqualify him from being a prophet of God. Are you saying that if he was a sexual predator who committed adultery with numerous married women and coerced many teen girls contradictory to God’s will, that you are OK with that?

            Since the church has now admitted that Joseph actually did those deeds in question, the only remaining question is if he was a predator or actually commanded by God. A predator like Warren Jeffs should evoke the strongest disgust and condemnation. I can’t see any moral God approving treating women in that manner, and any God that did would not be worthy of worship.

          • davidgrant


            I have to go with the preponderance of the evidence plus reason plus revelation to get to my very strong conviction in Joseph’s goodness and calling as a prophet. I understand that many have become discombobulated over appearances of similarities to Warren Jeffs and others, and I wish it were not so.

        • Gary

          Remember Jesus told Peter he would deny him three times before his death? Peter said that would never happen and then it did. He hated himself for it having been weak and was scared. I’m sure Joseph Smith may have felt the same at the time depending on where and who because during those days, it was not always pleasant when death threats were surrounding him in many ways. It’s also possible Joseph said such things for a reason to keep living. Perhaps Peter was told by Jesus that he had to lie or else he’d be killed and then he would not have been the President of the church after Jesus’ resurrection. If you understand the fears Peter had to remaining alive until his time, then you can perhaps certainly understand Joseph’s fears at this time. That to me makes the most sense.

        • David Case

          The Lord commanded Abraham to Lie about Sarah being his sister. The Lord knows why he does what he does.

          • OKRickety

            I see no evidence in either Genesis 12 or 20 that “The Lord commanded Abraham to Lie about Sarah being his sister”.
            On the other hand, it is true that God did not condemn Abraham for his deceit. I wonder why.

    • Jesse Bardsley

      Just because Joseph Smith was indeed practicing polygamy, doesn’t mean that the Nauvoo expositor wasn’t publishing libelous and untrue things that incited the surrounding people to violence against Mormons. It seems like you are assuming that those publishing the expositor had no motivation to lie or exaggerate, that they had no other motivation than exposing the objective truth. I don’t think the historical evidence about anti-Mormons of the 1800’s bears that up. Unless I am speaking to someone who has done extensive research on the details of what the expositor printed, I think my point stands.

  • Amanda

    I don’t agree that this information was not hidden. I taught seminary for 6 years, the D&C and Church History couse twice and never heard about any of this. I’m reading the new essays released by the church, it’s all new information to me.

    • I have been a member of the church for thirty nine years. I read about all of this, even the fourteen year old wife over twenty-five years ago. I love to read, especially about church history, prophets, and theology. The information was not hidden from me, just an average member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

      • James

        I was an EQ president. This was NOT in the lesson handbook about Joseph Smith and the lesson manual explicitly said to NOT discuss polygamy.

        So…where did you learn this stuff? Relief Society?

        • James

          It’s not in the manual because that’s not what’s important when teaching the members of the Church. The focus of church lessons is and should be the gospel of Jesus Christ (Principles, Ordinances, etc.). Obviously you’re not going to get to everything in Sunday School. But, to say it’s hidden because it’s written in books that you’ve never bothered to read is preposterous.
          Benjamin Franklin was a partier, womanizer, and by many accounts irresponsible. Accounts of his extravagant behaviors exist. But, I bet if you asked the average American, that’s not the opinion they have of him. Is it because the sources are hidden? No! It’s because the average American doesn’t care to educate themselves about the issue.

          • James

            Wow. You really don’t understand do you?

            If someone wrote about the “scandals” of Benjamin Franklin, they wouldn’t be stripped of their citizenship.

            But if someone writes about the scandals in the church, they’re ex’d. Not just ex’d but publicly smeared. They’re called an apostate and members are encouraged to disassociate from apostate groups and apostate information…thus effectively removing access to the uncomfortable truth.

          • Doug

            I’d absolutely love for the focus of our church lessons to be on the gospel of Christ but there are many, many lessons that focus on the whitewashed version of historic events. I feel like the intention was good, teach faith promoting stories. The problem is that there are also lessons to be learned from people’s imperfections.

            There was an entire Sunday School class dedicated to David and Bathsheba. Why not whitewash David’s indiscretions? Only focus on the positive faith promoting aspects of his story. Why shine a light on his sins? Why does Joseph get different treatment?

            There’s an opportunity to learn from mistakes that we’re missing out on. If Joseph could still be an instrument in the lord’s hands despite his imperfections that could serve to teach people that the lord can still work with us if we are repentant.

          • Laurel

            Or because the average American is not sacrificing time, talents, energy and money and making daily decisions and following a specific lifestyle based on the teachings of Benjamin Franklin. I don’t disagree with everything you’re saying, but your analogy makes light of how important Joseph Smith is to the Mormon religion. If his character is in question (whether this is new information to you or not!!), then it follows that many people will question the doctrines and fruits that came from him.

        • davidgrant

          Hi James, lesson manuals are not history as much as testimony. As mentioned in the article, there are places where polygamy has been acknowledged and discussed. Admittedly, a pre-internet seeker would have to dig a bit, but all of it has been available for decades. I understand that the church is working on a comprehensive history that will contain everything. I think it is about three years out. I look forward to it.

          • Ian

            Then why have a manual called: “DOCTRINE AND COVENANTS AND CHURCH HISTORY: GOSPEL DOCTRINE TEACHER’S MANUAL”? What good is it if it leaves out history?

          • davidgrant

            Ian, any account of history has to be selective or it would be thousands of pages. If your purpose is to teach a history class, you will approach your selection differently than if your purpose is to bear witness.

        • Susan

          In reference to Angela and James comment and rebuttal: I grew up in the church. I don’t recall ever having any in depth discussions about polygamy in church classes or over the pulpit and yet I knew all this stuff. I am not sure exactly how I knew. It is possible that my dad taught this to me because he was a convert before I was born in his early 20’s. He investigated many different religions and I do remember him telling me that he was given anti Mormon literature by “other” churches.

    • davidgrant

      Hi Amanda, as I mentioned, the manuals you taught from are testimony manuals intended to bring a student closer to Jesus. Disclosure of every historical fact is of secondary concern. I still stand by the “never hidden” comment. I have a bookshelves, wood and digital, that attest to the availability of the information presented in the essays.

      I would be curious to learn how you studied and taught D&C Section 132.

    • brother Chandler

      Just because it wasn’t spotlighted, does not mean is was hidden.

  • Brad


    What are your thoughts on the FLDS church? These individuals also believe, as you do, that the spirit has testified to them that Joseph Smith the prophet of the Restoration and that the Book of Mormon is a true account of literal people and events. Of course, they revere Warren Jeffs as their prophet, seer and revelator, not Thomas S. Monson. The spirit has also testified to them of Warren Jeffs’ role and position as their prophet (even as Jeffs sits in a jail cell).

    You stated: “I am skeptical by nature and used reason, logic and deconstruction to understand Joseph Smith and church history.”

    Could you go into more detail regarding how your skepticism, reason and logic allowed you to understand Joseph Smith and church history?

    • davidgrant

      Great questions, Brad. Having interacted with several FLDS leaders when I outsourced manufacturing work, and having had long religious discussions with them, I can say that they do have a love for Joseph Smith. I cannot speak to the nature of their spiritual experiences. That would have been an interesting discussion. I don’t know if it is the same as mine or not.

      My training and degree are in philosophy, mostly postmodernism and logic. I could not help but bring these tools to bear as I navigated church history. The details of how I did this would take more time than I have to spare, but may be a very good thing to write about in the future. Thanks for the prompt.

  • James

    “Mormon History Was Never Hidden”

    You’re right. Never hidden. Just HEAVILY redacted. And if you write about that history you get excommunicated.

    • davidgrant

      Hi James, having never sat in on any of the disciplinary councils you reference, I cannot speak to the actual reasons that they occurred. I could be wrong, but I suspect that the disciplinary decisions were driven by much more than just raw disclosure of history.

      I am personally grateful for the redactions mentioned. I am especially fond of the Teaching of the Prophets series. When I sit in a class at church, I want to be inspired and uplifted. I study my history differently.

      • James

        YOU might be grateful for being taught half-truths.

        Meanwhile there are thousands of others who are rightfully saying, “We had no idea Joseph Smith was having sex with the wives of men he’d sent away on church missions” and that the church has known all these years and been persecuting church historians for writing about it.

        • Steve

          If you read the article on many of these women said they were married to Joseph for eternity only meaning they claimed that they did not have sex with Joseph. Perhaps the intent of these marriages had nothing to do with sex.

          • Mike

            Temple adoption: before wilford woodruff ANYONE could be sealed to a prophet, dead or alive. Temple sealings were not limited to actually family until pres woodruff. technically, i could have been sealed to joseph smith. Of course anyone in america could marry their 14 year old first cousin and people would be ‘ok’ with it.

    • Meg Stout

      Writing about history doesn’t get you excommunicated. Brodie got excommunicated, but she made it clear she didn’t believe. And she’d been lying about her intent to get access to records.

      Quinn is no longer a member, but again I don’t think that was because he was writing history.

      I have a few friends who never learned about this stuff when they were young, so they freaked out and took themselves off the rolls of the Church.

      I’ve been aware of this stuff since forever, and most scholars writing about this stuff haven’t been excommunicated. I’ve been talking about this and writing for the past decade, and no one has so much as suggested I shouldn’t be doing so.

    • Mary Connell

      There have been many historians who have researched and written and taught about Joseph Smith’s plural marriage over the past 130 or so years including Andrew Jenson, Richard Bushman, B.H. Roberts, Susan Easton Black, Kathryn Daynes, and Joseph Fielding Smith.

      To the best of my knowledge, they have all remained faithful members of the Church.

      This evil canard that researching or writing about polygamy = excommunication has never been true and is not growing any more true with repetition.

  • nice article. thank you. you wrote the following “Two of note are Joseph Smith’s contemporary, William W. Phelps, and a modern historian, Don Bradford.” The last name is Bradley not Bradford. you get it right later in the story.

    • davidgrant

      Thanks, Ugo. It is fixed.

  • Jacklyn Fisher

    This is beautiful. Thank you.

  • Brian Devine

    When you start to get confused
    Because of thoughts in your head
    Don’t feel those feelings, hold them in instead

    Turn it off like a light switch
    Just go, click
    It’s a cool little Mormon trick
    We do it all the time

    When you’re feeling certain feelings
    That just don’t seem right
    Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light

    • Julius James

      And turn ’em off, light a light switch
      Just go back
      Really, what’s so hard about that
      Turn it off, turn it off

      When I was young my dad
      Would treat my mom real bad
      Every time the Utah Jazz would lose
      He’d start a drinkin’ and I’d start a thinkin’
      How’m I gonna keep my mom from getting abused

      I’d see her all scared and my soul was dyin’
      My dad would say to me
      Now don’t you dare start cryin’

      Turn it off like a light switch
      Just go flick
      It’s our nifty little Mormon trick
      Turn it off, turn it off

      My sister was a dancer but she got cancer
      The doctor said she still had two months more
      I thought she had time, so I got in line
      For the new iPhone at the Apple Store

      She lay there dying with my father and mother
      Her very last words were, “Where is my brother?”

      Turn it off
      Bid those sad feelings adieu
      The fear that I might get cancer, too

      When I was in fifth grade I had a friend, Steve Glade
      He and I were close as two friends could be
      One thing led to another and soon I would discover
      I was having really strange feelings for Steve

      I thought about us on a deserted island
      We’d swim naked in the sea and then he’d try and whoa

      Turn it off like a light switch
      There, it’s gone
      (Good for you)
      My hetero side just won
      I’m all better now

      Boys should be with girls
      That’s Heavenly Father’s plan
      So if you ever feel
      You’d rather be with a man, turn it off

      Well Elder McKinley, I think it’s okay
      That you’re having gay thoughts
      Just so long as you never act upon them

      No ’cause then you’re just keeping it down
      Like a dimmer switch on low
      Thinking nobody needs to know
      But that’s not true

      Being gay is bad but lyin’ is worse
      So just realize you have a curable curse
      And turn it off, turn it off, turn it off

      Now how do you feel?
      The same

      Then you’ve only got yourself to blame
      You didn’t pretend hard enough
      Imagine that your brain is made of tiny boxes
      And find the box that’s gay and crush it, okay

      No, no, I’m not having gay thoughts
      Alright, it worked

      Turn it off , turn it off, turn it off
      Like a light switch, just go click
      (Click, click)
      What a cool little Mormon trick
      (Trick trick)
      We do it all the time

      When you’re feeling certain feelings that don’t seem right
      Treat those pesky feelings like a reading light

      Turn it off like a light switch on a cord
      Now he’s isn’t gay any
      Turn it, turn it, turn it off

      • Varena

        May I respond to the suggestion made by the lyrics posted by Julias and Brian that it is a “Mormon trick” to “turn off” feelings and pretend they don’t exist?

        I subscribe to the notion that feelings, in an of themselves, are NOT facts; nor are they automatically BASED on facts.

        I TURN feelings of anger, dissatisfaction, disappointment, confusion, fear, repulse, etc AROUND (off or on) on a regular basis, simply by THINKING differently than I had been or did when I first encountered a particular event.

        Anyone with a nervous system and the ability to reason can determine how they will CONTINUE to respond to the feelings that MAY initially surface when facing a given scenario. I say MAY because I think that many of the feelings we claim are perfectly natural, normal, etc. are more in consequence of the THINKING we have done or are currently doing. Feeling cold, for example, in the dead of winter when one is barely dressed and dripping wet in the middle of a blizzard, is pretty much a universal likelihood if not a downright given. BUT I think other feelings such as love, anger, fear, are much more likely to be directly related to the THOUGHTS an individual has TRAINED themselves to trust and/or engage.

        The IMPULSES which MAY flow from the FEELINGS that surface in response to an event, demand that a DECISION be made as to how that the person will ACT on those feelings and impulses. Our life RESULTS are dependent “NOT on feeling, NOT on impulse, but on the DECISION that either releases the impulse or holds it back.”

        “When things happen outside ourselves –for instance, somebody passes me on the street — I react first with feelings (which feelings will most likely be colored by thoughts we have previously entertained). Let’s say the person who passed me was a friend, but he didn’t say hello. If I am secure, then I’ll decide he didn’t say hello because he didn’t see me. But if I am not secure, if I am over-sensitive, then all kinds of thoughts may crowd into my brain (which can provoke all kinds of intensified or additional feelings to surface in my being). I may think, ‘My friend shunned or disrespected me’.”

        “Disrespect may arouse either fear or anger in me. If that person is important to me, for instance, my boss or somebody that I want to ask for a favor, and he shuns me, then I become fearful. If he’s not an important person but just a friend, then I become angry. I have the impulse to show my anger. My impulse may be to challenge him or say something rude.” [May I refer the reader to chapter 25 of Manage Your Fears, Manage Your Anger by Dr. Abraham Low]

        Actions are dictated by how we JUDGE what we are experiencing. People are TRAINED by their environment and experiences how they WILL reason.

        We are TRAINED what to TRUST…..whether feelings are based on fact or truth or whether they are merely useful to defending ourselves temporarily against perceived threats to our perceived comfort or peace.