Eternal Marriage Restored
Polyandry and polygamy



    If you go to, an official LDS Church website, you might believe that Joseph Smith had only one wife, Emma Smith. Indeed, that is what Joseph said publicly, under oath, while he was alive. However, if you went to, another official Church website, you can find a list of his wives.

      At,  the official Church bookstore, you can purchase a well researched and documented book about the restoration of Eternal Marriage. Todd Compton’s In Sacred Loneliness; the Plural Wives of Joseph Smith is where we finally hear the story of Joseph Smith’s restoration of that principle. 

     Joseph Smith practiced polyandry. He "married" his friend's wives while they remained simultaneously married to their first husbands. Joseph  gained compliance by alternately offering earthly and heavenly rewards (salvation for their loved ones), with threats of damnation.

            This book was disquieting to me for many reasons. It made me feel that I had been mis-lead by the Church I loved. I was very disturbed by the manner in which such a sacred principle had been restored. There are many patterns in Joseph Smith’s behavior which go directly against what God directs, yet Joseph does them while claiming to be a prophet. The previous example that we have of a restoration is in the Old Testament; God told the Israelites how high, how many, what color. God struck Nadab and Abihu down for offering strange fire. He killed the man who steadied the Ark of the Covenant. He made the Israelites who worshipped the Golden Calf drink the powdered gold. The Church teaches us that God withheld the Restored Gospel from the earth until it could be restored properly. A god who would let it be restored in this fashion is a foreign god to me.


God says…

What the Book of Mormon says about polygamy;

Jacob 2:23-35


“Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord… Wherefore, I, the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.” Jacob 2:24-26


What the Bible says about polygamy;


 “A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach;” 1 Tim 3:2


“If any be blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of riot or unruly” Titus 1:6


“For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh? Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Matthew 19:5-6


Where and how Joseph went against the Word of the Lord.


Mother’s and their daughters


      Thou shalt not uncover the nakedness of a woman and her daughter, neither shalt thou take her son's daughter, or her daughter's daughter, to uncover her nakedness; for they are her near kinswomen: it is wickedness.” Lev. 18:17


And if a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burnt with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you. Lev 20:14



  1. Patty Bartlett Sessions  
  2. Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyon
  3. Phebe Watrous Woodworth (pg 388,pg 171 In Sacred Loneliness)
  4. Flora Ann Woodworth


 His Friend’s Wives (Married Women)


“Moreover thou shalt not lie carnally with thy neighbour's wife, to defile thyself with her.” Lev 18:20


“And the man that committeth adultery with another man's wife, even he that committeth adultery with his neighbour's wife, the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to death.” Lev 20:10


  1. Lucinda Pendelton Morgan Harris
  2. Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs
  3. Prescendia Lathrop Huntington Buell
  4. Patty Bartlett Sessions
  5. Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyon
  6. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner
  7. Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde
  8. Elizabeth Davis Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee
  9. Sarah Kingsley ( Howe Cleveland)
  10. Ruth Dagget Vose                                                            
  11. Elvira Annie Cowles
  12. Phebe Watrous Woodworth*
  13. Mrs. Tailor*
  14. Mary Heron Snider*


Joseph F. Smith, seventh President of the Church, and Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jensen, documented these marriages to Joseph Smith, including affidavits with dates of ceremonies. Their civil marriages and dates of childbirths are easily corroborated. A common misconception is that there were only one or two polyandrous marriages. In fact, fully a third of Joseph’s plural wives were married to, and living with their first husbands while Joseph was married to them.

            There were no divorces of the first husbands. Prescendia Huntington testified that she did not know whether her son Oliver was Joseph’s, or her first husband Norman’s. Obviously she was having carnal relations with both.

            The polyandrous marriages introduce us to two points of doctrine unfamiliar to modern LDS...


First, Joseph Smith regarded marriages performed without the Mormon priesthood authority invalid. (see D&C 132:7)


John D. Lee wrote: “About the time the doctrine of “sealing” for an eternal state was introduced, and saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid. That those who had solemnized the rites of matrimony had no authority of God to do so. That the true priesthood was taken from the earth with the death of the Apostles…They were married to each other only by their own covenants, and that if their marriage relations had not been productive of blessings and peace, and they felt it oppressive to remain together, they were at liberty to make their own choice, as much as if they had not been married. That it was a sin for people to live together, and raise and beget children in alienation from each other. There should be an affinity between each other, not a lustful one, as that can never cement that love and affection that should exist between a man and his wife.” Pg. 17, In Sacred Loneliness


In 1838, Joseph took his first polygamist wife. “All covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants.” Why did it take him until 1843 to “remarry” Emma?



Brigham Young taught in 1861: The Second Way in which a  wife can be separated from her husband while he continues to be faithful to his God and his priesthood, I have not revealed, except to a few persons in this Church; and a few have received it from Joseph the prophet as well as myself. If a woman can find a man of higher power and authority than her husband, and he is disposed to take her he can do so, otherwise she has got to remain where she is…there is no need for a bill of divorcement…To recapitulate. First if a man forfeits his covenants with a wife, or wives, becoming unfaithful to his god, and his priesthood, that wife, or wives are free from him without a bill of divorcement. Second. If a woman claims protection at the hands of a man, possessing more power in the priesthood and higher keys, if he is disposed to rescue her and has obtained the consent of her husband to make her his wife he can do so with out a bill of divorcement.” Pg. 17, In Sacred Loneliness


These “revelations” are no “restoration”, indeed they directly contradict the words of the Savior.


Jesus said, "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Matthew 19:6



Would You give Your wife to the Prophet?


”When the family organization was revealed from heaven-the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and on the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, "Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?" "I would tell him to go to hell." This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church…What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? He would say, "Yes, and I wish I had more to help to build up the kingdom of God." Or if he came and said, "I want your wife?" "O yes," he would say, "here she is, there are plenty more." Did the Prophet Joseph want every man's wife he asked for? He did not, but in that thing was the grand thread of the Priesthood developed.”  Apostle Jedidiah Grant, Journal of Discourses, Vol., 2:, p.14 , 19 Feb1854.



Apostle Heber C. Kimball and wife Vilate


“The first chapter in the story of the Smith, the Kimballs and polygamy is that of Vilate’s  offering, which Orson Whitney, Helen’s own son, recounted in his biography of Heber. In early 1842, apparently, Joseph approached Heber and made a stunning demand: “It was no less than a requirement of for him to surrender his wife, his beloved Vilate, and give her to Joseph in marriage!” wrote Orson. Heber naturally was paralyzed and initially unbelieving. “Yet Joseph was solemnly in earnest.” Heber’s first impulse was to turn down the requirement with no further discussion. At that time, Orson surmised, he doubted Joseph’s “motive and the divinity of the revelation.”

            For three days Heber endured agonies. Finally asked to choose between his loyalty to Mormonism and his intimacy with his wife, Mormonism and Smith won out. “Then, with a broken and bleeding heart, but with a soul self-mastered for the sacrifice, he led his darling wife to the Prophets house and presented her to Joseph” “Joseph wept at this proof of devotion, and embraced Heber, told him that it was all that the Lord required.” It had been a test, said Joseph, to see if Heber would give up everything he possessed. As so often with Joseph’s actions, he had an Old Testament parallel in mind-Abraham surrendering Sarah to Pharaoh. The emotional trauma Vilate endured must have been indescribable also. Then Joseph married her and Heber for eternity, and said, “Brother Heber, take her and the Lord will give you a hundred fold.” Pg. 495


  1. God NEVER breaks up marriages. Jesus said, “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife: and they twain shall be one flesh?” "Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder." Matthew 19:5-6
  2. Giving your wife to another man is “wickedness” (Lev. 18:20, 20:10), and would never be “required” by God.
  3. If Joseph Smith could marry the Kimballs for eternity in his own home, why do members have to save their whole lives to be able to make the trip to a Temple in distant lands to perform that ordinance? He performed many eternal marriages in the upper room of his store and some, like Fanny Alger’s have no record of place, or witnesses.
  4. Women are not possessions, then or now. (See Trading Women)

Ye shall therefore keep my statutes and my judgments, and shall not commit any of these abominations; neither any of your own nation, nor any stranger that sojourneth among you: For all these abominations have the men of the land done, which were before you, and the land is defiled;

      That the land spue not you out also, when ye defile it, as it spued out the nations that were before you.

      For whosoever shall commit any of these abominations, even the souls that commit them shall be cut off from among their people.

     Therefore shall ye keep mine ordinance, that ye commit not any one of these abominable customs, which were committed before you, and that ye defile not yourselves therein: I am the LORD your God. Lev 18:26-35



Joseph told Heber to lie to his wife or be “damned”


“This prefigured the next test for the couple, which was nearly as difficult as the first; Smith now taught Heber the principle of polygamy and required him to take a plural wife. At first Heber thought of marrying the two elderly ladies, the sisters Pitkin, who would cause Vilate ”little if any unhappiness.” But Smith had already selected Heber’s first plural wife, Sarah Peake Noon, a thirty year old English convert who had left an allegedly abusive husband, Mr. Noon, before her conversion, and had two little girls. Heber reluctantly agreed. Finally to add to the trail, Joseph commanded Heber to keep the plural marriage secret from even Vilate. “for fear that she would not receive the principle” Helen wrote, This was the greatest test of [Heber’s] faith he had ever experienced… the thought of deceiving the kind and faithful wife of his youth, whom he loved with all his heart, and who with him had borne so patiently their separation and all the trails and sacrifices they had been called to endure, was more than he felt able to bear.”

            Heber was understandably worried that Vilate would hear about the marriage from another source and balked at entering into polygamy under those conditions. Helen explained, “That the Prophet told him the third time before he obeyed the command. Thus shows that the trail must have been extraordinary, for he was a man who from the first had yielded implicit obedience to every requirement of the prophet.” According to Orson, “Heber was told by Joseph that if he did not do this he would lose his apostleship and be damned.”


“As so often Joseph smith taught polygamy as a requirement, and to reject it was to lose one’s eternal soul. Once one had accepted him as a prophet, one had to comply or accept damnation. Heber thus was hesitant and deeply troubled but nevertheless married Sarah Noon in early 1842 without telling Vilate. However, this caused him to display “anxious and haggard looks; he was sick and could not sleep, would wring his hands and weep like a child. Vilate was mystified.” Pg.496 In Sacred Loneliness



  1. Did you ever hear that the Prophet could select women for your wives?
  2. Do you believe that a Prophet of God would ever ask you to lie?
  3. Vilate already proved that she was willing to be made a whore for their new religion. She proved herself faithful, obedient and trustworthy. Why could she not be trusted to know who her husband married.
  4. This goes against what we’re taught; that the first wife had rights of refusal on who her husband married. A close reading of section 132 of the D&C shows that has never been the case.
  5. The reason some people accepted Joseph’s “requirements” was the fear of eternal damnation. That is what Joseph Smith threatened them with, others had the courage to listen to the Spirit and say no.


 “For behold, I reveal unto you a new and an everlasting covenant; and if ye abide not that covenant, then are ye damned; for no one can reject this covenant and be permitted to enter into my glory.” D& C 132:4



My How Heber Changed 



"I say to those elected to go on missions gather the sheep into the fold. You are sent out as shepherds to gather the sheep together; and remember they are not your sheep: they belong to Him that sends you. then do not takes selections before they are brought home and put into the fold. You can understand that? Amen." Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 6, Pg. 256


"Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in a habit of picking out the prettiest woman for themselves before they get here, and bring on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, let us all have a fair shake." Stanley P. Hirshon, The Lion of the Lord, New York, 1969, pg.139-40



Adam Lightner's wife, Mary
Mary Elizabeth Rollins, already married to non-Mormon Adam Lightner since 11 August 1835, was one of the first women to accept a polyandrous proposal from Joseph Smith. "He was commanded to take me for a wife," she wrote in a 21 November 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells. "I was his, before I came here," she added in an 8 February 1902 statement. Brigham Young secretly sealed the two in February 1842 when Mary was eight months pregnant with her son George Algernon Lightner. She lived with her real husband Adam Lightner until his death in Utah many years later. In her 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Mary explained: "I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church do not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with." She added on 23 January 1892 in a letter to John R. Young: "I could explain some things in regard to my living with Mr. L[ightner] after becoming the Wife of Another (Joseph Smith), which would throw light, on what now seems mysterious--and you would be perfectly satisfied with me. I write this; because I have heard that it had been commented on to my injury."-Lightner, Mary E. Statement. 8 Feb. 1902; Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, 21 Nov. 1880; Lightner to John R. Young, 25 Jan. 1892. George A. Smith Papers. Special Collections. University of Utah

Orson Hyde's Wife, Marinda
Marinda Nancy Johnson, sister of Apostles Luke and Lyman Johnson, married Orson Hyde in 1834. A year before Hyde returned from Jerusalem in 1843, Marinda was sealed to Joseph Smith in April of 1842, though she lived with Orson until their divorce in 1870. Many suspect Joseph Smith was the actual father of Marinda's son Frank Henry who was born on 23 Jan 1845, for two reasons. First, because Marinda had been the polygamous wife of Smith since Apr 1842. Second, because Smith had sent her first husband, Orson Hyde, on a mission to Washington on April 4, 1844 "immediately" after a meeting with Joseph Smith (History of the Church, pg. 286). The gestation period for a human is on average 266 days (not 9 months), which would date the conception to early May 1844. Of course, 266 is an average date and the figures vary. To give you an idea of the range, only four percent of pregnancies are actually carried two weeks or more beyond the average time (Guttmacher, 1983). Frank Henry was born on January 23, 1845. Orson Hyde left for Washington April 4, 1844. The difference in these two dates is 294 days! That is almost a month longer than expected and is basically physiologically impossible, especially considering that Orson Hyde had not returned to Nauvoo until August 6, 1844.”-Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, August 6, 1844

Windsor Lyon's Wife, Sylvia
Sylvia P. Sessions, married to Windsor P. Lyon, gave birth to a daughter on 8 February 1844, less than five months before Joseph Smith's martyrdom. That daughter, Josephine, related in a 24 February 1915 statement that prior to her mother's death in 1882 "she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me something which she had kept as an entire secret from me and all others but which she now desired to communicate to me." Josephine's mother told her she was "the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church."-Affidavit to Church Historian Andrew Jenson, 24 Feb. 1915

Norman Buell's Wife, Prescindia
Prescindia D. Huntington, a faithful Mormon and married woman in Nauvoo, was also a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith. Prescindia had married Norman Buell in 1827 and had two sons by him before joining Mormonism in 1836. She was secretly sealed to Joseph Smith by her brother Dimick on 11 December 1841, though she continued to live with her husband Buell until 1846, when she left him to marry Heber C. Kimball. In a "letter to my eldest grand-daughter living in 1880," she explained that Norman Buell had left the Church in 1839, but that "the Lord gave me strength to Stand alone & keep the faith amid heavy persecution." -Mormon Polygamy:A History" by Richard S. Van Wagoner, page 44

Prescindia, who was Normal Buell's wife and simultaneously a "plural wife" of the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that she did not know whether her husband Norman "or the Prophet was the father of her son, Oliver." And a glance at a photo of Oliver shows a strong resemblance to Emma Smith's boys.”-Mary Ettie V. Smith, "Fifteen Years Among the Mormons", page 34


Lucinda Morgan Harris, wife of Far West high councilor George Harris, admitted in 1842 that she had been Smith's "mistress since four years," and it is known that she visited Smith while he was incarcerated in Liberty Jail in 1838.

Henry Jacob's Wife, Zina
Prescindia's twenty-year-old sister Zina was living in the Joseph Smith home when Elder Henry B. Jacobs married her in March 1841. According to family records, when Zina and Henry asked Joseph Smith why he had not honored them by performing their marriage, Smith replied that "the Lord had made it known to him that [Zina] was to be his Celestial wife." Believing that "whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God's authorities bend to the reasoning of any man," the devout Elder Jacobs consented for six-months-pregnant Zina to be sealed to Joseph Smith 27 October 1841. Some have suggested that the Jacobs's marriage was "unhappy" and that the couple had separated before her sealing to Joseph Smith. But, though sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity, Zina continued her connubial relationship with her husband Henry Jacobs. On 2 February 1846, pregnant with Henry's second son, Zina was re-sealed by proxy to the murdered Joseph Smith and in that same session was “sealed for time" to Brigham Young. Faithful Henry B. Jacobs stood by as an official witness to both ceremonies.-"History of Henry Bailey Jacobs." By Ora J. Cannon, page 5-7. also see "Recollections of Zina D. Young" by Mary Brown Firmage

Zina and Henry lived together as husband and wife until the Mormon pioneers reached Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. At this temporary stop on the pioneer trail, Brigham Young announced that "it was time for men who were walking in other men's shoes to step out of them. Brother Jacobs, the woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed up to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirit" (Hall 1853, 43-44). President Young then called Jacobs on a mission to England. Witnesses to his departure commented that he was so emotionally ill they had to "put him on a blanket and carry him to the boat to get him on his way".-"Short Sketch of the Life of Henry B. Jacobs" By Ora J. Cannon

Henry returned from his mission and settled in California. But he was still in love with his wife Zina, now a plural wife of Brigham Young. Henry's letters to his wife Zina were heartrending. On 2 September 1852 he wrote: "O how happy I should be if I only could see you and the little children, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." "I am unhappy," Henry lamented, "there is no peace for poor me, my pleasure is you, my comfort has vanished.... O Zina, can I ever, will I ever get you again, answer the question please." In an undated Valentine he added:

Zina my mind never will change from Worlds without Ends, no never, the same affection is there and never can be moved I do not murmur nor complain of the handlings of God no verily, no but I feel alone and no one to speak to, to call my own. I feel like a lamb without a mother, I do not blame any person or persons, no--May the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham and all purtains unto him forever. Tell him for me I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our god Joseph [Smith]." -"Short Sketch of the Life of Henry B. Jacobs" By Ora J. Cannon


It was the rule rather than the exception for Smith to encourage a polyandrous wife to remain with her legal husband.



Faithful member Joseph Kingsbury even wrote that he served as a surrogate husband for Joseph Smith:

"I according to Pres. Joseph Smith & council & others, I agreed to stand by Sarah Ann Whitney [sealed to Smith 27 July 1843] as though I was supposed to be her husband and a pretended marriage for the purpose of shielding them from the enemy and for the purpose of bringing out the purposes of God." -Elder Joseph Kingsbury, "History of Joseph Kingsbury Written by His Own Hand," page 5, Utah State Historical Society


Why was it okay for Joseph Smith to sleep with other men’s wives but Joseph Knight had to “pretend” marriage with Sarah Ann?

Read Mormon apologist explanations for why Joseph Smith married other men's wives:



John Taylor's Wife, Leonora
"The Prophet went to the home of President Taylor, and said to him, 'Brother John, I WANT LEONORA.'" Taylor was stunned, but after walking the floor all night, the obedient elder said to Smith, "If GOD wants Leonora He can have her." Woodruff concluded: "That was all the prophet was after, to see where President Taylor stood in the matter, and said to him, Brother Taylor, I don’t want your wife, I just wanted to know just where you stood."- Prophet Wilford Woodruff, John Mills Whitaker Journal, Nov. 1 1890; emphasis in original

Heber C. Kimball's Wife, Vilate
“During the summer of 1841, shortly after Heber's return from England, he was introduced to the doctrine of plural marriage directly through a startling test-a sacrifice which shook his very being and challenged his faith to the ultimate. He had already sacrificed homes, possessions, friends, relatives, all worldly rewards, peace, and tranquility for the Restoration. Nothing was left to place on the altar save his life, his children, and his wife. Joseph demanded for himself what to Heber was the unthinkable, his Vilate. Totally crushed spiritually and emotionally, Heber touched neither food nor water for three days and three nights and continually sought confirmation and comfort from God." Finally, after "some kind of assurance," Heber took Vilate to the upper room of Joseph's store on Water Street. The Prophet wept at this act of faith, devotion, and obedience. Joseph had never intended to take Vilate. It was all a test." - Biography of Heber C. Kimball, "Heber C. Kimball, Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer." By Stanley B. Kimball, page 93.

Orson Pratt's Wife, Sarah
"Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841 while Orson Pratt was away on a mission, Joseph Smith confided to his friend that he was smitten by the "amiable and accomplished" Sarah Pratt and wanted her for "one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness" (emphasis in original). Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett's sewing to Sarah's house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, "Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me." "And is that the great secret that I am not to utter," Sarah replied. "Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will." She added, "I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me." But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, "Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it." "Sister Pratt," the Prophet responded, "I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?" "If you will never insult me again," Sarah replied, "I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it." "If you should tell," the Prophet added, "I will ruin your reputation, remember that." -Article "Sarah M. Pratt" by Richard A. Van Wagoner, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, p.72


William Law's Wife, Jane
"William Law, a former counselor in the First Presidency, wrote in his 13 May 1844 diary: "[Joseph] has lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and has found her a virtuous woman" The Laws elaborated on this in a public meeting shortly thereafter. "The Prophet had made dishonorable proposals to [my] wife . . . under cover of his asserted 'Revelation,' " Law stated. He further explained that Joseph came to the Law home in the middle of the night when William was absent and told Jane that "the Lord had commanded that he should take spiritual wives, to add to his glory." Law then called on his wife to corroborate what he had said. She did so and further explained that Joseph had "asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband" Jane refused the Prophet, and according to William Law's 20 January 1887 letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, Smith then considered the couple apostates. "Jane had been speaking evil of him for a long time . . . slandered him, and lied about him without cause," Law reported Smith as saying. "My wife would not speak evil of . . . anyone . . . without cause," Law asserted. "Joseph is the liar and not she. That Smith admired and lusted after many men's wives and daughters, is a fact, but they could not help that. They or most of them considered his admiration an insult, and treated him with scorn. In return for this scorn, he generally managed to blacken their reputations--see the case of . . . Mrs. Pratt, a good, virtuous woman." -Richard S. Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy,  pg. 44

Hiram Kimball's wife, Sarah
Sarah M. Kimball, a prominent Nauvoo and Salt Lake City Relief Society leader was also approached by the Prophet in early 1842 despite her solid 1840 marriage to Hiram Kimball. Sarah later recalled that

"Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle." -"LDS Biographical Encyclopedia" By Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887


Sarah Kimball, like Sarah Pratt, was committed to her husband, and refused the Prophet's invitation, asking that he "teach it to someone else." Although she kept the matter quiet, her husband and Smith evidently had difficulties over Smith's proposal. On 19 May 1842, at a Nauvoo City Council meeting, Smith jotted down and then "threw across the room" a revelation to Kimball which declared that "Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil, and formulating evil opinions" against the Prophet, which if he does not desist from, he "shall be accursed." Sarah remained a lifetime member of the Church and a lifelong wife to Hiram Kimball. - "LDS Biographical Encyclopedia" By Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887, Official History of the Church 5: 12-13,

Sidney Rigdon's daughter, Nancy
When Smith proposed marriage in April 1842 to Nancy Rigdon, nineteen-year-old daughter of his close friend and counselor, Sidney Rigdon, he reportedly took her into a room, "locked the door, and then stated to her that he had had an affection for her for several years, and wished that she should be his." Nancy refused him, saying she would only marry a single man. The following day Smith explained in a letter to her: "That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another." He added, "Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof." She remained unconvinced. Nancy, her brother John, and her brother-in-law George W. Robinson testified in sworn affidavits that the Joseph Smith had proposed "spiritual marriage" to her. Smith publicly denied the accusations.- "The Letter of the Prophet, Joseph Smith to Miss Nancy Rigdon," Joseph Smith Collection, LDS archives; History of The Church 5:134-36. Sidney Rigdon Biography, Richard S. Van Wagoner, Chapter 21


Marriages in the Full Sense of the Word


Though it would be nice to believe that these marriages were spiritual, and not physical, Joseph’s doctrine and the testimonies of his wives make that impossible. The point of these marriages was for Joseph to “multiply and replenish the earth.”


 "And if Joseph Smith have ten virgins given unto him by this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to him, and they are given unto him; therefore he is justified for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified."
- Doctrine and Covenants 132:62-63


“Joseph Smith’s first wife Emma, allegedly told the wife of Apostle George A. Smith, Lucy that Joseph Smith’s marriages were “celestial” only, that he had no earthly marital relations with them. “They were only sealed for eternity they were not to live with him and have children.” Lucy later wrote that when she told this to her husband: “He related to me the circumstance of his calling on Joseph late one evening and he was just taking a wash and Joseph told him that one of his wives had just been confined and Emma was the Midwife and he had been assisting her. He [George A. Smith] told me [Lucy Smith] this to prove to me that the women were married for time [as well as for eternity], as Emma had told me that Joseph never taught such a thing.” Pg. 19, In Sacred Loneliness


“First, there is no evidence elsewhere that Joseph Smith ever married for eternity only, not including “time”...Second, Helen’s(then 14 yrs old) later history shows that Joseph was protective of her as he had been with another young wife, Flora Woodworth(16 yrs old), and tried to shield her from the attentions of young men. This would not be consistent with a marriage for eternity only.” Pg. 500, In Sacred Loneliness 


 He had sex with his fourteen year old brides.


“She [Helen Mar Kimball, 14] was apparently coming to realize that her secret marriage to Joseph entailed time as well as eternity. A severe depression ensued-she felt that life’s happiness had ended completely-“

 Pg. 502 ISL


Having sex with Joseph sent Helen into deep depression.

"Because of claims by Reorganized Latter-day Saints that Joseph was not really married polygamously in the full (i.e., sexual) sense of the term, Utah Mormons (including Joseph's wives) affirmed repeatedly that Joseph had physical sexual relations with his plural wives-despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American religion which otherwise would have prevented mention of sexual relations in marriage." -Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, Pg. 19


- Faithful member Melissa Lott (Smith Willes) testified that she had been Joseph's wife "in very deed." -Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893, Temple Lot case, 98, 105; Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 156. Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


- In a court affidavit, faithful member Joseph Noble wrote that Joseph told him he had spent the night with Louisa Beaman. -Temple Lot Case, 427, Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


- Emily D. Partridge (Smith Young) said she "roomed" with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had "carnal intercourse" with him. -Temple Lot case (complete transcript), 364, 367, 384; see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15. , Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


In total, 13 faithful Latter-Day Saint women who were married to Joseph Smith swore court affidavits that they had sexual relations with him.


- Joseph Smith's personal secretary records that on May 22nd, 1843, Smith's first wife Emma found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. Emma was devastated.-William Clayton's journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106) , Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


- Faithful Mormon Benjamin Johnson wrote, "On the 15th of May . . . the Prophet [Joseph Smith] again Came and at my house [house] ocupied the Same Room & Bed with my Sister that the month previous he had ocupied with the Daughter of the Later Bishop Partridge as his wife." -Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44. , Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


- Faithful Mormon and Stake President Angus Cannon told Joseph Smith's son: "Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked [Eliza R. Snow] the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, "I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that."" -Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives. , Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


Did Joseph Smith father any children from his polygamous wives?


- Stake President Angus Cannon also testified: "I will now refer you to one case where it was said by the girl's grandmother that your father [Joseph Smith] has a daughter born of a plural wife. The girl's grandmother was Mother Sessions . . . She was the grand-daughter of Mother Sessions. That girl, I believe, is living today, in Bountiful, north of this city. I heard prest. Young, a short time before his death, refer to the report . . . The woman is now said to have a family of children, and I think she is still living." -Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 25-26, LDS archives. Pg 12-13, In Sacred Loneliness


 - Faithful Mormon and wife of Joseph Smith, Sylvia Sessions (Lyon), on her deathbed told her daughter, Josephine, that she (Josephine) was the daughter of Joseph Smith. Josephine testified: "She (Sylvia) then told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church." (Affidavit to Church Historian Andrew Jenson, 24 Feb. 1915) pg 183,  In Sacred Loneliness


- In her testimony given at a Brigham Young University devotional, Faithful Mormon Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner stated that she knew of children born to Smith's plural wives: "I know he [Joseph Smith] had six wives and I have known some of them from childhood up. I know he had three children. They told me. I think two are living today but they are not known as his children as they go by other names." (Read her full BYU testimony here:


- Faithful member Prescindia D. Huntington, who was Norman Buell's wife and simultaneously a "plural wife" of the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that she did not know whether her husband Norman "or the Prophet was the father of her son, Oliver." Mary Ettie V. Smith, "Fifteen Years Among the Mormons", page 34; And a glance at a photo of Oliver shows a strong resemblance to Emma Smith's boys.


Researchers have tentatively identified eight children that Joseph Smith may have had by his plural wives.



Josephine Lyon (Birth: February 8, 1844)
Mother: Sylvia Sessions Lyon
Father: Windsor Lyon

Oliver Buell (Birth: 1838 – 39)
Mother: Presendia Huntington Buell
Father: Norman Buell

Frank Henry Hyde (Birth: January 23, 1845, 1846?)
Mother: Marinda Johnson Hyde
Father: Orson Hyde

John Reed Hancock (Birth: April 19, 1841)
Mother: Clarissa Reed Hancock
Father:  Levi Hancock


George Algernon Lightner (Birth: March 22, 1842)
Mother: Mary Rollins Lightner
Father: Adam Lightner

Orson Washington Hyde (Birth: November 9, 1843)
Mother: Marinda Johnson Hyde
Father: Orson Hyde


Todd Compton said that Joseph was lonely. If Joseph was so lonely why did Sarah Ann have to look out for Emma? If a wife is ministering to her husband he’s not lonely, he’s something else.

"... the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. ... Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. ... I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith."- Joseph Smith Handwritten Journal


“Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet [is] she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the residue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth.” Mal 2:14-15


Sister Wives are Forbidden


“Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister, to vex her, to uncover her nakedness, beside the other in her life time.” Lev 18:18


  1. Eliza Maria Partridge        
  2. Emily Dow Partridge18    
  3. Sarah Lawrence 17           
  4. Maria Lawrence 19            
  5. Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs
  6. Prescendia Lathrop Huntington Buell
  7. Delcena Diadamia Johnson Sherman Smith Babbitt
  8. Almera Woodward Johnson Smith Babbitt   


The “Can’t Say No” Category


And whosoever lieth carnally with a woman, that is a bondmaid, betrothed to an husband, and not at all redeemed, nor freedom given her; she shall be scourged; they shall not be put to death, because she was not free. Lev 19:20

            This group of young women were not literally “bondsmaid”. The relationship between them and Joseph Smith is stomach churningly inappropriate and some were not “free” to leave because he was their guardian and they were minors. He literally controlled their inherited money after their parents died. Which I believe makes Joseph’s deflowering of the Partridge girls, and then throwing them out of his house because of Emma even more wicked than it appears at first glance.


Fanny Alger 16                    Guardian(Pg.34 ISL) 1831

Eliza Maria Partridge 22    Guardian                   1843 March

Emily Dow Partridge 19   Guardian                   1843 March

Sarah Lawrence 17            Guardian                   1843 May

Maria Lawrence 19             Guardian                   1843 May

Lucy Walker 16                   Guardian                   1842 May


 “The Prophet and his wife introduced us as their sons and daughters.” Lucy Walker, Pg 462, In Sacred Loneliness


“After private prayer, Emily decided it was not right to receive what she suspected might be a romantic letter from her host, employer, father figure, and spiritual leader.” Emily Partridge, pg. 406, In Sacred Loneliness


“Joseph Smith had sent John Walker, the father, on a long mission while the family was still grieving for the mother, had split up the siblings-separating the younger children from the older-and referred to the older Walkers as his own children.” pg.463, In Sacred Loneliness


Child Brides


“As is generally true of marriage, psychological and sexual attraction probably were also factors in the union.” pg.390, In Sacred Loneliness


  1. Helen Mar Kimball  14                  1843
  2. Nancy Maria Winchester  14       1842-43?
  3. Fanny Alger 16                                1831
  4. Flora Woodworth    16                   1843
  5. Lucy Walker    16                            1842


My father had but one Ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the altar: how cruel this seamed to the mother whose heartstrings were already stretched until they were ready to snap asunder, for he had taken Sarah Noon to wife & she thought she had made sufficient sacrifise but the Lord required more.” Helen mar Kimball, pg.498, In Sacred Loneliness


“She was nearly suicidal;” “ Why-Why should I be chosen from among thy daughters, Father, I am only a child in years and no experience. No mother to council; no father near to tell me what to do in this trying hour. Oh let this bitter cup pass. And thus I prayed in the agony of my soul.” (Helen Mar Kimball), Ibid



Marry or be Damned


“At this point Smith proposed to fifteen or sixteen year old Lucy Walker, demanding that she marry him.” pg. 463, In Sacred Loneliness


“Again as in case of Helen Mar and Sarah Ann Whitney, Smith put the family’s salvation on a teenager’s willingness to accept him as a plural husband. Unlike those cases, however the prophet did not work through the father but approached the girl directly, after sending the father on a mission.” pg. 463-464, In Sacred Loneliness



Women Traded



How Many Lived with Joseph Before his Proposal?


  1. Fanny Alger
  2. Vienna Jacques
  3. Rose Daggett Sayers
  4. Eliza Partridge
  5. Emily Partridge
  6. Sarah Lawrence
  7. Maria Lawrence
  8. Lucy Walker
  9. Lucinda Morgan Harris
  10. Nancy Marinda Hyde
  11. Zina Huntington Jacobs
  12. Mary Rollins Lightner
  13. Sarah Maryetta Kingsley


Men Sent Away


These were faithful LDS who were sent away on missions when Joseph thought that he stood a better chance at proposing to their wives with out them there.

            Orson Hyde

            Henry Jacobs

            Orson Pratt

            William Law

            John Walker

            Hiram Kimball?



Come Listen to a Prophet’s Voice


 Joseph was acting “as a Prophet of the Lord” when he instituted these marriages.


“Joseph often framed his marriages as fait accompli-the Lord had already “given” the women to the prophet. God was the ratifying agent, and it was sacrilegious to doubt. It was the woman’s duty to comply with the fact that she was already Joseph’s possession.” Pg. 407, In Sacred Loneliness


“According to Mary Elizabeth Rollins, who was married to Adam Lightner when Joseph proposed to her, “Joseph Said I was his, before I came here, he said all the Devils in Hell should never get me from him.” Elsewhere she wrote that Smith told her he had been commanded to marry her, “or suffer condemnation-for I[Mary} was created for him before  the foundation of the earth was laid.”


Joseph taught that “all real marriages were made in heaven before the birth of the parties” Pg. 19, In Sacred Loneliness


“I have a message for you, I have been commanded of God to take another wife, and you are the woman.” Pg. 463, In Sacred Loneliness


“As often Smith phrased the proposal as a direct commandment from God.”

“He next asked me if I believed him to be a prophet of God. “Most assuredly I do I replied.” “He fully explained to me the principle of plural or celestial marriage. Said this principle was again to be restored for the benefit of the human family. That it would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house. And form a chain that could never be broken worlds without End.” Pg 463. In Sacred Loneliness


Again as in the case of Helen Mar and Sarah Ann Whitney, Smith put the burden of a family’s salvation on a teenager’s willingness to accept him as husband.



The Angel with a Flaming Sword


"It is true that the Prophet Joseph Smith was visited by many heavenly messengers who helped inaugurate this final dispensation."

"Latter-day Saints are blessed through the Prophet Joseph Smith’s great faith and mission that opened the windows of heaven. He was the preappointed agent through which communion with the heavens and the earthly ministry of angels were resumed in a grand manner."

"Through faith, his weaknesses became strengths, and he nobly fulfilled his great foreordained mission—because heavenly messengers were his guides."
- LDS Church Publication "Ensign,", Oct. 1994, page 62

Faithful Mormons accept Joseph Smith's story of conversing face-to-face with God-the-Father and Jesus Christ. They accept his story about angel Moroni visiting him.

Joseph Smith also testified of another angelic visitor, one that came to him repeatedly to command him to teach an eternal principle and commandment. This revelation was so important, the angel threatened Smith's life if he did not teach and practice it. Joseph Smith's consistent testimony regarding this heavenly messenger is just as credible as the stories he told about his other visits from the angel Moroni.

"The same God that has thus far dictated me and directed me and strengthened me in this work, gave me this revelation and commandment on celestial and plural marriage, and the same God commanded me to obey it. He said to me that unless I accepted it, and introduced it, and practiced it, I, together with my people would be damned and cut off from this time henceforth. We have got to observe it. It is an eternal principle and was given by way of commandment and not by way of instruction."
- Prophet Joseph Smith, Contributor, Vol. 5, p. 259

"When that principle was revealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith ... he did not falter, although it was not until an angel of God, with a drawn sword, stood before him; and commanded that he should enter into the practice of that principle, or he should be utterly destroyed, or rejected, that he moved forward to reveal and establish that doctrine."
- Prophet Joseph F. Smith, "Plural Marriage for the Righteous Only-Obedience Imperative-Blessings Resulting", Journal of Discourses, Vol.20, p.28 - p.29

"Joseph was commanded to take more wives and he waited until an angel with a drawn sword stood before him and declared that if he longer delayed fulfilling that command he would slay him."
- Hyrum Smith, Elder Benjamin F. Johnson's Letter to George S. Gibbs, 1903

"I know whereon I stand, I know what I believe, I know what I know and I know what I testify to you is the living truth. As I expect to meet it at the bar of the eternal Jehovah, it is true. And when you stand before the bar you will know. He preached polygamy and he not only preached it, but he practiced it. I am a living witness to it. It was given to him before he gave it to the Church. An angel came to him and the last time he came with a drawn sword in his hand and told Joseph if he did not go into that principle, he would slay him."
- Sister Mary Lightner, Address to Brigham Young University, April 14th, 1905, BYU Archives and Manuscripts
Also See:

"His brother, Hyrum, said to me, "Now, Brother Benjamin, you know that Brother Joseph would not sanction this if it was not from the Lord. The Lord revealed this to Brother Joseph long ago, and he put it off until the Angel of the Lord came to him with a drawn sword and told him that he would be slain if he did not go forth and fulfill the law." He told my sister to have no fears, and he there and then sealed my sister, Almira, to the Prophet."

"Soon after this he was at my house again, where he occupied my Sister Almira's room and bed, and also asked me for my youngest sister, Esther M. I told him she was promised in marriage to my wife's brother. He said, "Well, let them marry, for it will all come right.""
- Joseph Smith's personal secretary and church patriarch, Elder Benjamin F. Johnson, My Life's Review

"The Prophet Joseph Smith there and then explained to me the doctrine of plurality of wives; he said that the Lord had revealed it unto him, and commanded him to have women sealed to him as wives; that he foresaw the trouble that would follow, and sought to turn away from the commandment; that an angel from heaven then appeared before him with a drawn sword, threatening him with destruction unless he went forward and obey the commandment."

"He further said that my sister, Eliza R. Snow, had been sealed to him as his wife for time and eternity. He told me that the Lord would open the way, and I should have women sealed to me as wives. This conversation was prolonged, I think, one hour or more, in which he told me many important things."

"I solemnly declare before God and holy angels, and as I hope to come forth in the morning of the resurrection, that the above statement is true."
- Prophet Lorenzo R. Snow, sworn affidavit.
Also See:

"19 year-old Zina remained conflicted until a day in October, apparently, when Joseph sent [her older brother] Dimick to her with a message: an angel with a drawn sword had stood over Smith and told him that if he did not establish polygamy, he would lose "his position and his life." Zina, faced with the responsibility for his position as prophet, and even perhaps his life, finally acquiesced." (In Sacred Loneliness, page 80-81)

Some questions to ponder:

  1. Did Smith's free agency matter to Heavenly Father?
  2. Why didn't the angels appear to anyone but Smith (i.e. the women)?
  3. Did the women's free agency matter to Smith OR Heavenly Father?
  4. Theoretically, wouldn't marrying ONE other woman "establish" the law of plural marriage?
  5. If Smith were sent to establish a law, why didn't he do any of it in the light of day? Why didn't he lawfully petition governments, argue before the judiciary, and take care of some of the difficult footwork necessary in order to establish the--let's use the word correctly now--law?
  6. How can a father's salvation be assured through a daughter's marriage to Smith, if we also hold the Articles of Faith to be true...?
  7. Smith foresaw the trouble polygamy would cause, but the Lord giving the commandment didn't?


Eternal and Earthly Rewards


“After which he said to me, “If you will take this step it will ensure your salvation and exaltation and that of your father’s household and all your kindred.” This promise was so great I willingly gave myself for such a reward.” As in the case of Sarah Ann Whitney, Joseph gave the teenage daughter responsibility for not only for her own salvation but for that of her whole family.” Pg. 499, In Sacred Loneliness


Pg 21-22, In Sacred Loneliness

Pg. 84 In Sacred Loneliness

Pg. 123, In Sacred Loneliness

Pg. 384-349, In Sacred Loneliness