Saints: The Standard of Truth? (Part 4)
Following the review of the new LDS book, Saints, we wanted to do a full blown annotation of the book to show where the LDS church still refuses to be honest with members about some difficult issues. This is Part 4 of Saints, covering the time-frame between April 1839 and February 1846. If you have not read Parts 1-3 yet, you can catch up on those chapters here.
Every day come back and we will review a new chapter -- we will do our best to point out where the church is being honest, where they are being fair, and where they are hiding and suppressing their difficult history as we've done in the LDS annotated essays.
Part One (Chapters 1-8): My Servant Joseph (April 1815-April 1830)
Part Two (Chapters 9-21): A House of Faith (April 1830-Aptil 1836)
Part Three (Chapters 22-33): Cast Into the Deep (April 1836-Aptil 1839)
Part Four (Chapters 34-46): Fullness of Times (April 1839-February 1846)
Chapter 34: Build Up a City (Telling Members Everything, "the Power to Be Healed," Forever Families; Added Nov 9)
Chapter 35: A Beautiful Place (Settling Nauvoo, Deaths in the Church, Temple Ordinances, John Bennett; Added Nov 10)
Chapter 36: Incline Them To Gather (Fluffy Narratives with Polygamy Carefully Tucked in the Middle; Added Nov 11)
Chapter 37: We Will Prove Them (Book of Abraham, Polygamy, Relief Society, Temple Ceremony/Masons; Added Nov 13)
Chapter 38: A Traitor or a True Man (John Bennett, Spiritual Wifery, Boggs Shot, Joseph Smith's Polygamy; Added Nov 15)
Chapter 39: The Seventh Trouble (John Bennett, Joseph Hiding from the Law, Emma and Joseph; Added Nov 17)
Chapter 40: United In An Everlasting Covenent (Polygamy, Polygamy, and More Polygamy; Added Nov 20)
Chapter 41: God Must Be the Judge (Polygamy, Jane Manning, Emma Smith and Polygamy, Kinderhook Plates; Added Nov 29)
Chapter 42: Round Up Your Shoulders (William Law, Council of Fifty, Failed Prophecies, and Running for President; Added Dec 4)
Chapter 43: A Public Nuisance (William Law, King Follett Discourse, Council of Fifty, Nauvoo Expositor); Added Dec 19)
Chapter 44: A Lamb to the Slaughter (Nauvoo Expositor Fallout, Governor Ford, Joseph's Arrest and Death; Added Jan 11)
Chapter 45: An Almighty Foundation (Joseph's Death, Richards prophecy, Transfiguration of Brigham Young; Added Feb 4)
Chapter 46: Endowed With Power (Brigham Takes Over, Nauvoo Temple, End of Saints Volume 1; Added May 24)
Chapter Thirty Four: Build Up a City
The fourth and final part of Saints begins with Joseph Smith together with the church in Illinois. They are looking for land to buy and some members believe they should be more spread out to avoid the locals fearing them as they did in Missouri. Joseph Smith asks God for guidance and He replies that Joseph should “Build up a city, and call my Saints to this place.”
One interesting tidbit early in this chapter is about how Joseph frequently met with the Twelve and that "the prophet taught that God did not reveal anything to him that He would not also make known to the Twelve. “Even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to,” Joseph declared."
This is a very interesting statement as it will not be long now when Joseph Smith is hiding polygamy from many church members and outright lying about it except for the select few that are made aware of it. Even looking at this statement in the frame of modern times, the critical view of this statement is that current leaders do not feel that "even the least Saint may know all things as fast as he is able to," as the church continues to teach a narrative that does not match their own history.
If the church truly believed this statement, they would not teach that Joseph Smith used the gold plates to dictate the Book of Mormon, that the Book of Abraham is a translation from papyrus, or that the Lamanites are descendants of Native Americans. We could go on here, but we just want to note that not only did Joseph Smith not practice this, but neither do current church leaders
Swarms of mosquitoes lead to sickness among many church members and leaders, which creates problems for the apostles that were preparing to go to Britain. This leads to a faith promoting story of how Joseph Smith "healed" Elijah Fordham with a blessing. "Joseph approached Elijah and took his hand. “Brother Fordham,” he asked, “have you not faith to be healed?”"
Having the 'faith to be healed' has been a longstanding motto in many church talks over the years. The problem, as we've stated so many times in this review of Saints, is that it just doesn't stand up to reality. As we discuss on our summary page, there has even been a recent talk about having the 'faith not to be healed.'
There is just no increase in healings after priesthood blessings and hospitals in Utah do not report miraculous recoveries in better numbers than anywhere else. During the April 2018 General Conference, there were 11 talks where references were made to those who were dying, and not a single one of those 11 were healed. Again, we don't want to beat a dead horse here, but these stories of healing were written in a time when people viewed things with a magical worldview. While these stories sound great today in talks, our own eyes tell us that priesthood blessings have absolutely no significant impact on healings. If they did, the church would publicize those statistics in every talk, manual, or advertisement they produce.
After Elijah is miraculously "healed," Saints begins the next paragraph with "Joseph’s efforts to bless and heal the sick did not end the spread of disease in Commerce and Montrose, and some Saints perished."
To be fair, credit should be given to Saints here for being honest and not just implying that Joseph Smith was healing people with these blessings. At the same time, if we're to believe that Joseph Smith has the miraculous power to heal, critics would ask why do many more people die than are saved? This was the same problem when there was an outbreak of cholera earlier in Saints, which could have been avoided if the Word of Wisdom had a rule to boil water instead of banning coffee and hot soups.
Joseph Smith then appeals to the President of the United States for damages caused in Missouri. He asks the government to pay him $2,000,000, which is the equivalent of about $53,000,000 today. When Joseph Smith arrives in Washington, he is rebuffed by the President and Congress would not side with the church over the statements from Missouri as well.
During Joseph's stay in Washington, he preached to surrounding areas to build the church. Saints spends some time discussing an interaction with Matthew Davis, who was a "correspondent for a popular newspaper in New York City." His wife was curious about the church, and he went to listen to Joseph talk.
After hearing Joseph talk, Matthew declared that he "realized that he had heard nothing that evening that would harm society." One of the interesting things in this section is that Saints does not mention the tiers of Heaven - "Matthew noted that the prophet said very little about rewards or punishments in the next life except that he believed that God’s punishment would have a beginning and an end."
When I joined the church, I was surprised at how the Book of Mormon was not that 'strange' to me reading it. The thing is that the Book of Mormon does not include most of the doctrines of the LDS church inside of it. There is a traditional Christian Heaven and Hell in the Book of Mormon, there was no polygamy and the one mention of it was negative, there is no endowment ceremony, no sealings, no secret ceremonies, no mention of families being forever, no Word of Wisdom, no garments, no priesthood authority by laying on of hands, no separate godheads, no Kolob, no second anointing, no baptism for the dead, etc, etc.
If you listened to Joseph Smith preach early on, it probably seemed very traditionally Christian because Joseph Smith was a traditional Christian with a Methodist leaning background. While the church tends to lean on the Book of Mormon more than they do the Bible, it really is not that much different. And as we'll see in this last part of Saints, Joseph Smith is about to really change theology which is what causes a lot of problems for the church moving forward.
The next part of Saints focuses on Joseph thinking of his beloved Emma, whom he has already secretly betrayed with a relationship outside of their marriage and is about to engage in many more. Saints continues: "When Joseph married Emma, he had believed that their union would end at death. But the Lord had since revealed to him that marriages and families could endure beyond the grave through the power of the priesthood."
What is so amazing about this paragraph is that the citation about families enduring "beyond the grave through the power of the priesthood" is to a book by Brian Hales titled Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. It is pretty amazing that the church needed to cite a book about polygamy to make the case that families can be forever, especially since polygamy has not begun in full force yet. So often in the Gospel Topics essays the footnotes lead to even more problems, and this particular footnote is a doozy.
The chapter ends with the apostles in Britain for their mission as well as the end of seeking reparations from the US Government for the suffering in Missouri. They had reviewed the petition, but ultimately decided that while "they acknowledged the Saints’ distress but believed Congress had no power to interfere with the actions of a state government. Only Missouri could compensate the Saints for their losses."
Chapter Thirty Five: A Beautiful Place
The malaria outbreak continues into chapter 35, and it takes the lives of more church members including Harriet and Edward Partridge, the first bishop of the church. However, the church continued to build homes in order to settle on the land, and completed the Partridge's home after Edward's death.
Upon calling the lands Nauvoo, Joseph Smith began work to "build as great a temple as ever Solomon did, if the church will back me up."
We are not going to get into the specifics of the LDS temple ceremonies out of respect for the desire for secrecy, but it needs to be pointed out here that inside Solomon's temple was animal sacrifice and not an endowment ceremony as the LDS church conducts. The Masonic ceremony was also thought to be modeled after Solomon's temple, but as Joseph Smith replicated much from the Masonic ceremony, neither of them truly are modeled after the ceremonies inside Solomon's temple.
Joseph introduces baptisms for the dead as the malaria outbreak took more lives, and this is yet another doctrine that is completely absent in the Book of Mormon. As we have noted in previous chapters, the Book of Mormon itself is very similar to the Bible, which critics point to due to the King James errors that are copied directly into the Book of Mormon. Now that we are in the Nauvoo period, we will see a lot of doctrines take shape that are completely foreign to the Book of Mormon.
As the health issues continued in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith Sr's health turned for the worse. He gave a final blessing to Joseph, and this conversation is interesting in hindsight:
“Hold out faithful and you shall be blessed, and your family shall be blessed and your children after you,” he said. “You shall live to finish your work.”
“Oh, Father,” Joseph cried, “shall I?”
“Yes, you shall,” said the patriarch, “and you shall lay out the plan of all the work that God requires at your hand.”
Joseph Smith would die less than four years later, with much of the church left to be finished. Apologists would likely argue that Joseph Smith restored the church to fullness, but critics would argue that much was left undone including a clear plan of succession. Either way, it is an interesting note about Joseph Smith Sr as he often gave patriarchal blessings with a magical worldview.
A revelation was soon given to Joseph Smith that the Lord "accepted the Saints’ past efforts to build Zion in Jackson County, but He commanded them now to build up Nauvoo." In addition, they would need to build a new temple, and the Lord told Joseph that “I deign to reveal unto my church things which have been kept hid from before the foundation of the world, things that pertain to the dispensation of the fulness of times,” the Lord promised. “And I will show unto my servant Joseph all things pertaining to this house, and the priesthood thereof.”
As we mentioned earlier, much of what Joseph would reveal to the church in the temple will be lifted heavily from the Masonic ceremonies, which Joseph Smith will be learning while the temple is built. This also builds off Joseph's claimed visit by both Elias and Elijah, even though as we discussed in an earlier chapter are actually the same person. In that visit, 'they' handed Joseph the keys of restoration.
The Illinois legislature approved the charter for Nauvoo, giving the church the ability to create laws, schools, and courts. John Bennett was the first mayor, and Joseph loved his arrival to the church.
This chapter of Saints, however, ends with some foreshadowing of bad things to come. While the church members all seemed to love Bennett, Emma Smith did not care for him:
"She thought John paraded himself through town like a pompous general, and when he was not trying to impress Joseph, he seemed self-absorbed and inconsiderate.
For all his talents and usefulness, something about John Bennett worried her."
As we know, John Bennett would be ex-communicated a few years from this chapter for accusations of adultery and "spiritual wifery." The problem, of course, is that Joseph Smith himself will also be secretly marrying and having sexual relations with other women. Saints is working early here to make sure that readers build that uneasiness with Bennett, because after his excommunication he turns on Joseph and even claims that the Danites attempted to assassinate him. It's complicated to say the least.
Chapter Thirty Six: Incline Them To Gather
We have made an argument throughout this review of Saints (and with the Gospel Topics essays as well) that the church follows a very clear pattern when they come across difficult topics. They begin with a fluffy, faith promoting story, they then tuck in the difficult subject, and then they end with either the conclusion of the earlier faith promoting story or a new one.
This chapter does just that as they again introduce polygamy. Keep in mind that polygamy was discussed in Kirtland because Joseph Smith had engaged in an extramarital relationship with Fanny Alger. The church claims it was a marriage based off a second hand account written decades later, but regardless it was not a relationship based on any revelation that Joseph Smith had even claimed to receive at the time.
Very quickly I want cover the faith promoting parts of the chapter so we can get to the main event. Saints begins with the story of Mary Ann Davis, a member from Britain whose husband died after suffering injuries from "rough men" who had "knocked John to the floor and kicked him mercilessly." She leaves for Nauvoo and on the way finds her future second husband, Peter Maughan.
Back in Nauvoo, Joseph Smith invites newspaper editor Thomas Sharp to spend the day with them in order to try and gain the goodwill of the area. The day went well and Sharp wrote a favorable account of the ceremony in his paper. However, soon later Sharp would turn critical of the church when John Bennett was appointed to an "important position in the county court system." In his newspaper, Sharp notes "“It is said that many have determined to leave,” he reported, “and that letters have been sent to England, warning their friends, who had designed to emigrate, of the sad state of things in the City of the Church.” At the heart of their discontent, he claimed, was a lack of faith in the prophet’s mission."
Joseph Smith is livid with Sharp's account and cancels his newspaper with a letter:
"Sir—You will discontinue my paper—its contents are calculated to pollute me, and to patronize the filthy sheet—that tissue of lies—that sink of iniquity—is disgraceful to any moral man.
Yours, with utter contempt,
P.S. Please publish the above in your contemptible paper."
Sharp indeed prints the letter alongside "sarcastic commentary about Joseph’s prophetic call." He then prints a proclamation by Joseph that the church should gather and build in Nauvoo, which worries Joseph because he did not want a repeat of what happened in Missouri.
In the middle of all this, Saints discusses polygamy in more detail than what was given in the Kirtland chapters with Fanny Alger. The section begins: "Joseph understood through revelation that marriage and family were central to God’s plan. The Lord had sent Elijah the prophet to the Kirtland temple to restore priesthood keys that sealed generations together like links in a chain. Under the Lord’s direction, Joseph had begun to teach more Saints that husbands and wives could be sealed together for time and eternity, becoming heirs to the blessings of Abraham and fulfilling God’s eternal plan for His children."
First, this section cites D&C 132, which would not be written/recorded for another two years after this chapter. It is disingenuous to claim that the revelation was received at this time, which is a source of great controversy around Joseph Smith's polygamy and polyandry. Since the church also cites their Gospel Topics essay on polygamy, we highly encourage you to read our annotated version of their essay for a much more detailed look at these problems.
Second, as we discussed earlier Joseph was visited by Elijah and Elias. The problem, as we discussed earlier, is that Elijah and Elias are the same person in different languages, but Joseph did not know this when claiming the revelation. Critics would argue that issues such as this prove that Joseph Smith was relying on the Biblical scholarship of his time and using it to create a theology for Mormonism.
Saints continues: "The prophet Jacob in the Book of Mormon taught that no man should have “save it be one wife,” unless God commanded otherwise. As the story of Abraham and Sarah showed, God sometimes commanded faithful followers to participate in plural marriage as a way to extend these blessings to more individuals and raise a covenant people to the Lord. Despite the trials it brought, Abraham’s marriage to his plural wife Hagar had brought forth a great nation. Plural marriage would likewise try the Saints who practiced it, yet the Lord promised to exalt them for their obedience and sacrifice."
We discuss this in our annotated Gospel Topics essay, but God did not command Abraham to take an additional wife. Sarah told Abraham to have a child with Hagar. This is a line the church uses in discussions about polygamy that is flat out wrong and would never pass their own definition of honesty. Critics would argue that Joseph Smith added in the line about polygamy to the Book of Mormon as the idea was on his mind from reading the Bible, but there is just no instance where God commands a group of people to enter into polygamous marriages, and in almost all cases looks upon it negatively.
"Joseph himself left no record of his own views on plural marriage or his struggle to obey the commandment. Emma too disclosed nothing about how early she learned of the practice or what impact it had on her marriage. The writings of others close to them, however, make clear that it was a source of anguish for both of them."
This is a key point -- Emma did not know this was happening for a very long time. D&C 132 is still a few years from being revealed, but what Joseph is doing right now violates D&C 132 by not giving Emma a chance to consent first. Furthermore, if we are to believe that sealings are more important than marriage because that are said to be eternal, then why was Emma not sealed until Joseph was already sealed to about twenty other wives?
Saints continues: "Yet Joseph felt an urgency to teach it to the Saints, despite the risks and his own reservations. If he introduced the principle privately to faithful men and women, he could build strong support for it, preparing for the time when it could be taught openly."
Again, Joseph kept polygamy extremely secret and away from most church members. This created almost a secret inner-circle in the Mormon church, which some critics argue was a very important reason for the early temple ceremonies - it allowed for secrecy with members entering into polygamy and shielded these marriages from the outside world.
More Saints: "Around the fall of 1840, Joseph had begun speaking with twenty-five-year-old Louisa Beaman about the practice. Louisa’s family had been among the first to believe in the Book of Mormon and embrace the restored gospel. After her parents died, she had moved in with her older sister Mary and her sister’s husband, Bates Noble, a veteran of the Camp of Israel. Bates was present during Joseph’s discussions with Louisa about plural marriage. “In revealing this to you, I have placed my life in your hands,” Joseph told him. “Do not in an evil hour betray me to my enemies.""
The sources for the Beaman account are from about 20-30 years after the event, so it impossible to say how accurate they are, but there are some issues here that Saints does not mention. The first thing we wanted to note about the Beaman marriage is that it was completely secret from everyone including Emma. In fact, Beaman was disguised as a man for the ceremony, and afterwards they were taken to Noble's house across the river to sleep together for the night. (Joseph B. Noble, Deposition, Temple Lot Case) While we understand why Saints does not mention the secrecy involved or mention that Joseph Smith had sex with her as one would do with a new bride while Emma slept alone in her house, it is the true history and deserves to be told so members know just how abhorrent the practice was.
The second thing we wanted to mention is that this marriage was considered to be the first polygamous marriage by the church for many decades until the Fanny Alger history could not be ignored. Joseph Bates Noble himself declared in his Temple Lot deposition that he presided over the first polygamous marriage for Joseph Smith. Outside of a second hand source it appears this is the case, as many consider the Fanny Alger relationship to be adulterous, but again is an issue where Saints wants to have it both ways against their own history.
Again, this is one of the most damning elements of Mormonism, but Saints chose to carefully tuck this in-between fluffier narrative stories. There are over 18 paragraphs before polygamy is mentioned for about a dozen paragraphs, and then the final 26 paragraphs return to the fluffier narratives of Saints. If you have been following this pattern in other chapters or the Gospel Topics essays, you can understand why we have found this to be a very deliberate tactic to keep readers from focusing on the most damning elements of church history.
We are going to focus a lot on polygamy in these chapters because Saints is trying to paint a faith promoting picture of it when in fact it was messy, it was painful, and it was against the very teachings that Joseph Smith taught even in D&C 132. Even with this introduction, we can see the statements that are clearly untrue such as God commanding Abraham to take another wife in order to justify Joseph Smith's actions with polygamy. And since Saints won't give a more complete picture of polygamy, we will do it for them.
Chapter Thirty Seven: We Will Prove Them
I just want to state up front that I have a lot of problems with this chapter. It covers a lot of troubling topics and does so in very misleading ways. I apologize if it sounds overly harsh, because I don't want to turn anyone away who might be open to the possibility that this church is not true. Please read our review here with an open mind, and I will link to other sources here if you would like more information because there is a lot packed in here.
The chapter begins with the release of the Book of Abraham. "In February, he turned his attention back to the Egyptian scrolls he had purchased in Kirtland and the unfinished translation of Abraham’s writings."
We have discussed the Book of Abraham at length in our annotated Gospel Topics Essay on the Book of Abraham, but this is the biggest "smoking gun" against Joseph Smith. In the essay, the church redefines what "translation" is because what Joseph Smith translates is simply not correct to what is actually on the writings.
We could do this for all three of the facsimiles, but the bottom line is that what Joseph Smith translated is simply not correct. There are a lot of different apologetic possibilities that the LDS essay gives, but none of them hold up to scrutiny. There is no "long scroll" as we know from the Book of Abraham manuscript that the source material comes from the papyrus fragment near facsimile one which is above.
Later in this chapter of Saints, they briefly mention the Book of Abraham again: "As the Saints read the record, they were thrilled to discover new truths about the creation of the world, the purpose of life, and the eternal destiny of God’s children. They learned that Abraham had possessed a Urim and Thummim and had spoken with the Lord face-to-face. They read that the earth and everything in it had been organized from existing materials to bring about the exaltation of the Father’s spirit children."
Again, the Book of Abraham is almost entirely lifted from other sources including Genesis, Thomas Dick's book Philosophy of a Future State, books from the apocrypha including Jasher and Josephus, and Thomas Taylor’s The Six Books of Proclus on the Theology of Plato. We know that Joseph owned these books as they were donated to the Nauvoo library in 1844, and Oliver Cowdery actually printed an excerpt from Thomas Dick's book in an 1836 Messenger and Advocate issue. Again, we cover these issues in our annotated Book of Abraham essay.
Second, critics have long argued that since Joseph Smith wrote the Book of Mormon, he wrote himself into the book in ways like using a seer stone. They also argue that Joseph Smith wrote himself into his Book of Moses when saying "Joseph, son of Joseph." So it would not only make sense, but be expected that Joseph Smith would claim that Abraham used an "Urim and Thummim" and had "spoken to the Lord face-to-face" in order to establish his (Joseph's) authority.
This is pretty much all that Saints discusses with the Book of Abraham, which does such a disservice to this issue. We highly urge everyone reading this to read our annotated LDS essay on the Book of Abraham, because this is such a monumental problem that is clearly being glossed over here.
Next, Saints gets back to polygamy. We're going to do our best here to cover this as fully as we can, because they're packing a lot of this into small paragraphs.
First, they begin discussing polygamy again with: "Joseph urged the Twelve and other trusted friends to be obedient to the Lord as he prepared them to receive this endowment of divine power. He also taught the principle of plural marriage to a few more Saints and testified of its divine origin. The previous summer, less than a week after the apostles returning from England arrived in Nauvoo, he had taught the principle to a few of them and instructed them to obey it as a commandment of the Lord. While plural marriage was not necessary for exaltation or the greater endowment of power, obedience to the Lord and a willingness to dedicate one’s life to Him were."
The source that highlights how Joseph Smith was teaching this to the apostles was written in 1866, about 24 years later. That's not to say it's wrong, but it's just not a contemporary account and is likely going to further sugar coat the messiness with the benefit of hindsight.
We also want to note that while Joseph Smith never told anyone polygamy was necessary for exaltation, Brigham Young understood differently. In the Journal of Discourse, Brigham says "The only men who become Gods, even the sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy." (Journal of Discourses 11:268-269)
While Brigham Young's remarks are often quoted by critics, it is fair to say that what Brigham was ultimately saying was that while you don't have to take polygamous wives to "become Gods," you do need to believe in the doctrine of polygamy. That is a difference from the way critics present that quote, but it also shows that polygamy was not a take it or leave it doctrine - even if you did not participate yourself, you did have to accept it as from God.
The next paragraph on polygamy from Saints: "Like Joseph, the apostles at first resisted the new principle. Brigham felt such agony over the decision to marry another wife that he longed for an early grave. Heber Kimball, John Taylor, and Wilford Woodruff wanted to delay obedience as long as possible."
First, that quote from Brigham Young is not from 1842 as Saints implies, but from 13 years later. If Brigham Young truly longed for an early grave instead of marrying additional wives, why did he marry fifty five women? If it was truly such a horrible thing for him, why did he just keep going?
Critics would then point out just how deceptive Saints is being by discussing how difficult polygamy was for Heber Kimball. Do you know why it was so rough for him? From our annotated essay on polygamy in Kirtland and Nauvoo: "We must also consider the circumstances around Helen’s betrothal to Joseph. First Joseph commanded Helen’s father, Heber C. Kimball to turn his own wife, Vilate, over to Joseph as a plural wife. After a great deal of anguish, Heber finally agreed. When the Kimballs showed up to deliver Vilate to Joseph, and when Joseph saw how distraught and broken-hearted the Kimballs were, he showed mercy and told them the request had really only been a test of Heber’s loyalty, with Vilate serving as a prop. Heber would be allowed to keep his wife after all, but was later allowed to offer his 14-year old daughter in her stead, and as was common in these proposals, Joseph would guarantee a place in the Celestial Kingdom for the entire Kimball family. How could the family turn down such a high pressure offer? Once Joseph knew that Heber was more loyal to him than to his own family he knew he could ask anything of him."
Saints does not mention this because it is absolutely, unquestionably awful. Joseph Smith often used these tests of his close members in order to maintain authority over them, and many critics argue that he did this to keep those members complicit in these events so they had to go along with it. Heber Kimball also famously said “I think no more of taking another wife than I do of buying a cow.” (Ann-Eliza Snow, Wife No. 19, Chapter 17) and went on to marry 43 women.
Last, I want to add this quote from the LDS Gospel Topics essay: "Heber C. Kimball found comfort only after his wife Vilate had a visionary experience attesting to the rightness of plural marriage. “She told me,” Vilate’s daughter later recalled, “she never saw so happy a man as father was when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew it was from God.""
Do you know why Heber was "so happy a man?" First, he had already married a second wife before Vilate gave permission, in violation of D&C 132. Second, Heber Kimball was happy that he could now marry any women he saw fit, which he took great advantage of in marrying over 40 more women.
I just want to make sure those reading this understand how completely dishonest it is to claim that these apostles were somehow reluctant participants here. Brigham and Heber did not need to combine for over 90 wives, yet they did. They did not need to treat women as chattle in trading men's daughters for salvation, but they did. From Helen Mar Kimball's journal: “My father had but one Ewe Lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter: how cruel this seemed 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 sacrifice, but the Lord required more… I will pass over the temptations which I had during the twenty four hours after my father introduced to me this principle & asked me if I would be sealed to Joseph, who came next morning & with my parents I heard him teach & explain the principle of Celestial marriage -- after which he said to me, “If you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation and exaltation & that of your father’s household & all of your kindred.” (Helen Mar Whitney, Autobiography, March 30, 1881)
Critics have long wondered how an entire family would receive eternal salvation by giving their daughter to Joseph Smith as a polygamous wife. It does not make sense in a doctrinal sense and it's an abomination on any moral level. We cover this in our annotated essay on polygamy and I highly encourage anyone to read this and have some space to think about this with an outsider's perspective because this is unhealthy, immoral, and abhorrent.
A lot of the next few paragraphs is also in the gospel topics essay, but they're really noteworthy so we'll try to quickly cover them:
"Following the Lord’s command, Joseph had also been sealed to other women since his marriage to Louisa Beaman. When teaching a woman about plural marriage, he would instruct her to seek her own spiritual confirmation that being sealed to him was right. Not every woman accepted his invitation, but several did."
Joseph Smith often pressured the women in telling them they needed to do so in order to achieve eternal salvation. He also often talked to the parents of the women to get their permission so the family could receive exaltation (as noted above). It's hard to claim that women received spiritual confirmation when they were being pressured with stories of angels with drawn swords (we'll get to that in a second).
"In Nauvoo, some Saints entered plural marriages for time and eternity, which meant their sealing would last through this life and the next. Like monogamous marriages, these marriages could involve sexual relations and having children. Other plural marriages were for eternity only, and the participants understood that their sealing would take effect in the next life."
This is a tactic the church uses to try and infer that Joseph Smith wasn't having sex with many of the women he married. We know from records in the Temple Lot case that he had sex with many of them, which would lead anyone looking at this rationally to think he was having sex with many more since the others never spoke about it.
"In some cases, a woman who was married for time to a disaffected Saint, or to a man who was not a member of the church, or even to a church member in good standing, could be sealed for eternity to another man. After the sealing ceremony, the woman continued to live with her current husband while anticipating the blessings of an eternal marriage and exaltation in the life to come."
This is introducing the concept of polyandry, which is marrying the wife of another man. Joseph Smith took many polyandrous wives, and some of them were from faithful LDS members. In fact, Joseph Smith even married some women while their husbands were away on a mission. (Zina Jacobs and Marinda Johnson Hyde are two good examples)
But the bigger question is this: If an eternal family is so important, why would Joseph Smith take these faithful men's wives for all eternity? Isn't that a worse punishment than taking the wives for just time on this Earth? This is one of the reasons the church does not like to talk about polyandry - not only does it go against D&C 132, but it is one of the most unhealthy abuses that can be bestowed upon faithful members.
Next is the story of Joseph's marriage to Mary Lightner, who was already married to her husband Adam (not a member). What Saints does not mention as they describe the courtship is that Joseph Smith used the "angel with a drawn sword" story to pressure Mary into marrying him. As Mary herself told it: "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." (Mary Lightner 1905 Address, typescript, BYU, p.1 - p.2)
This story was told by Mary about 60 years after it happened, but Joseph told this story to other women as well. Critics would argue this puts women under great duress thinking that if they don't marry Joseph Smith he would be killed. How could they not receive a spiritual confirmation with so much on the line?
Saints continues: "The following Sunday, Joseph asked Mary if she had received an answer.
“I have not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before,” Mary admitted. “I saw an angel and I was almost frightened to death. I did not speak.”
“That was an angel of the living God,” Joseph said. “If you are faithful you shall see greater things than that.”"
What Saints does not print here is the rest of what Joseph said in his reply. According to Mary, Joseph said "He looked up and said, "How could you have been such a coward?" Said I, "I was weak." "Did you think to say, 'Father, help me?'" "No." "Well, if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for that was an angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge, intelligence, and light than I have ever dared to reveal." I said, "If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak to me?" "You covered your face and for this reason the angel was insulted."" (Mary Lightner 1905 Address, typescript, BYU, p.2 - p.3)
This is from a time when many believed with a magical worldview, but this is also another sign where critics argue Joseph Smith is repeating some of the thoughts from his treasure digging days when discussing how Mary "insulted" the angel by not speaking to it. And as we have said multiple times in our Saints recap, how often do you hear of angels visiting anyone since the use of recording devices?
Mary soon claimed to receive the spiritual confirmation and was married to Joseph by Brigham Young. Among the wives of Joseph Smith not named that would have occurred by this chapter: Zina Diantha Huntington (Jacobs), Presendia Lathrop Huntington (Buell), Agnes Moulton Coolbrith (Smith), Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyon, Patty Bartlett (Sessions), Marinda Nancy Johnson (Hyde).
Two final points about Mary's story: In 1905 letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Mary says that Joseph "said I was the first woman God commanded him to take as a plural wife." (1905 Letter to Emmeline Wells)
This statement is interesting for a number of reasons. First, Saints has already admitted that Joseph Smith had a relationship with Fanny Alger. They do not want to call it an extramarital affair as some church leaders believed it to be, so they claim Joseph married Fanny citing a second hand account from many decades later. If that is the case, then Joseph told Mary about a commandment that he was not following.
Second, as we have stated already, this continues the pattern of Joseph Smith claiming revelation in order to pressure women to marry him as polygamous wives. This is something we will see more of as we go and it also impacts those around him as we will see in the next chapter with John Bennett.
And our final point is that Mary told others that this marriage was for time and all eternity. If you read the quote from Saints above, that means that this marriage included sexual relations. In 1877, Lightner signed an affidavit that Joseph Smith "received a direct command from God to take me for a wife for time and all eternity." (Lightner affidavit) In 1902, Lightner again said that "Brigham Young sealed me to him [Joseph] for time and all eternity." (LDS.org) By using the differentiation above, this means that Joseph Smith was married and having sexual relations with a woman already married. It is difficult to explain how unhealthy and abusive this is, which is why Saints neglects to give a full picture.
We have the formation of the Relief Society in this chapter as well. What is interesting is that they discuss how the Relief Society was working to weed out "spiritual wifery" among some members of the church, but what Saints does not mention is that Emma Smith is using the Relief Society to try and stop polygamy. At this point Emma still does not know what Joseph is doing behind her back, and unfortunately is unaware that many of the leaders of the Relief Society with her are secretly married to her husband. You can read more about this on our annotated essay on polygamy because this is one of the saddest parts to see how badly Emma was fooled by everyone around her. This might be covered in the next chapter, but if not we will fill in more of the story there.
The last part of Saints focuses on the new endowment ceremony for the temple. They discuss how it's a secret ceremony that needed to be taught to the members to gain eternal exaltation. What is amazing is that Saints mentioned how Joseph entered into the Masons when discussing the Relief Society formation, but they don't mention that Joseph Smith received his initiation in March of 1842. Just two months later, Joseph Smith would introduce the endowment ceremony.
Saints alludes to the similarities with the following: "Some aspects of the ordinance reminded Heber Kimball of Masonic ceremonies. In Freemasonry meetings, men acted out an allegorical story about the architect of Solomon’s temple. Masons learned gestures and words they pledged to keep secret, all of which symbolized that they were building a solid foundation and adding light and knowledge to it by degrees."
The reality is that the endowment ceremony is almost identical to the Masonic ceremony both in language and the handshakes/tokens. We are not going to post the comparisons here, but if you Google the similarities they are easy to find. While apologists argue there is more to the endowment ceremony, the fact that the text and even the penalties (that have been removed recently) were almost direct copies is yet another area critics point to where Joseph Smith lifted other sources for his doctrine.
Saints is aware of the critical comparisons between the temple ceremony and the Masonic ceremony that Joseph Smith learned just weeks earlier, so they have to add this into the chapter. Freemasonry also has no similarities to Solomon's Temple, which was all about animal sacrifice. The truth is that the church's endowment ceremony is much more aligned with the Freemasonry than Solomon's Temple, which begs the question of why Joseph used their signs, tokens, penalties, and five points of fellowship that Freemasonry does?
This has been a long chapter and I hope you stuck with us. I personally had a difficult time with this as we could have made this chapter's review twice as long and not covered everything. Between the Book of Abraham, polygamy, and the temple ceremony... it's almost too much to take for one chapter.
Chapter Thirty Eight: A Traitor or a True Man
As we discussed in chapter thirty seven, almost no time is spent on the Book of Abraham and discussions about polygamy are contained in small sections of paragraphs. Yet in chapter thirty eight, the main focus of the chapter is on John Bennett and his predatory behavior with women. Critics would argue that if Saints has enough time to focus almost an entire chapter on Bennett, they have enough time to give some of the messier details of polygamy or discuss some issues with the Book of Abraham.
Regardless, the chapter begins with the assassination attempt on Governor Boggs in Missouri. Suspicions were strong that the church was behind the attack after Joseph Smith's remarks of revenge towards Missouri, and Saints weaves this story throughout the chapter as it has big implications.
Saints then jumps in the John Bennett story. Rumors had circulated that Bennett had approached several women "in secret insisting that it was not sinful to have a sexual relationship with him as long as they told no one. Calling his practice “spiritual wifery,” John had lied to them, assuring them that Joseph approved of such behavior."
This leads to an investigation by Hyrum Smith, who was "horrified" to learn the details of the women's accounts. "
Bishop George Miller had been sent by Joseph to investigate the rumors and soon learned that John had a history of moving from place to place, using his many talents to take advantage of people. George also discovered that John had children and was still married to a woman he had abused and cheated on for many years."
These findings lead Joseph and the church leaders to draw up excommunication papers, but they did not want to make them public to avoid creating a scandal. "But one thing was certain: the mayor had become a danger to the city and the Saints, and Hyrum felt compelled to stop him."
Bennett soon finds out about the investigation and begs for mercy. As Bennett seeks out Joseph, "John cried out, “Brother Joseph, I am guilty.” His eyes were red with tears. “I acknowledge it, and I beg of you not to expose me.”"
The exchange continues, and we really want to highlight this. From Saints:
“Why are you using my name to carry on your hellish wickedness?” Joseph demanded. “Did I ever teach you anything that was not virtuous?”
“Did you ever know anything unvirtuous or unrighteous in my conduct or actions at any time, either in public or in private?”
“I did not.”
Here is what the footnote says for this exchange: "“Affidavit of Hyrum Smith,” Times and Seasons, Aug. 1, 1842, 3:870–71. In Hyrum Smith’s account, Joseph also asked John Bennett, “Have I ever taught you that fornication and adultery was right, or polygamy or any such practices?” to which Bennett answered, “You never did.” Chapter 40 explains that Saints viewed their divinely sanctioned plural marriages as distinct from polygamy."
Why would Saints not post that part of the exchange here? The question of “Have I ever taught you that fornication and adultery was right, or polygamy or any such practices?” is the first question Joseph is said to have asked of Bennett, yet it's not mentioned in Saints.
The bottom line is that Saints knows that Joseph Smith is in a bind here: Either he taught John Bennett about polygamy and these abhorrent behaviors are a byproduct of those teachings, or Joseph Smith was lying to members about polygamy or, even worse, teaching against polygamy.
That one line undercuts this entire chapter, and Saints not just leaves it out, but awkwardly tries to address it in the footnotes that they know almost no members will ever look at. Again, we don't know if John Bennett abused some form of polygamy before Joseph made it public, which led to the outcry among members who had no idea what Joseph Smith was up to personally, but the fact that Saints is ignoring that line is quite telling. The term "spiritual wifery" could easily apply to polyandry, where a member such as Joseph marries another man's wife for 'eternity only' yet enjoys all of the benefits of marriages in this time as well.
Saints then discusses the Boggs assassination attempt again, with an Illinois newspaper pointing the finger at Joseph Smith. "Some people accused Boggs’s political rivals of pulling the trigger, but the newspaper argued that the Saints were behind it, claiming that Joseph had once prophesied a violent end for Boggs. “Hence,” it declared, “there is plenty of foundation for rumor.”"
Joseph took offense at the accusation and replied to the newspaper. “You have done me manifest injustice in ascribing to me a prediction of the demise of Lilburn W. Boggs,” he wrote the editor of the newspaper. “My hands are clean, and my heart pure, from the blood of all men.”
We quickly pivot back to the John Bennett story as the church finalized as excommunication notice but does not publicize it to avoid creating a scandal. Joseph then counsels the Relief Society to “Repent, reform, but do it in a way to not destroy all around you.” Emma, on the other hand, proclaimed that “Sin must not be covered, especially those sins which are against the law of God and the laws of the country.”
This is interesting to use mostly because Joseph Smith has well over twenty wives at this point and Emma has no idea. It is so sadly ironic to see Emma preaching this idea as so many of the women she is talking to are secretly married to and having sexual relations with Joseph Smith.
Joseph finally kicks John Bennett out of the church publicly and posts a notice about it in the Times and Seasons newspaper. "A few days later, in a sermon at the temple site, he spoke plainly to more than a thousand Saints about John’s lies and exploitation of women."
John Bennett left Nauvoo and began sending letters to nearby newspapers accusing "Joseph of a host of crimes, including many that he himself had committed, and wove wildly false and exaggerated stories to support his claims and cover his sins. In one letter, John accused Joseph of ordering the May shooting of Lilburn Boggs, repeating the story from the newspaper that the prophet had foretold Boggs’s violent death and adding that Joseph had sent his friend and bodyguard Porter Rockwell to Missouri “to fulfill prophecy.”"
These letters led to the arrest of Joseph Smith and Porter Rockwell in the investigation into the assassination attempt on Governor Boggs. The main reason for this was learning that Porter Rockwell had been visiting Independence, Missouri during the time of the shooting, combined with Joseph's hatred and alleged threats towards Boggs.
Joseph and Porter were arrested, but were handed over to the "city marshal" so the sheriff could figure out how to handle the arrest. The moment the sheriff left, Joseph and Porter fled.
This chapter actually covers a relatively short time frame, but in these months Joseph Smith took the additional polygamous/polyandrous wives: Sally Ann Fuller, Sarah Maryetta Kingsley (Howe Cleveland), Delcena Johnson (Sherman), Eliza Roxcy Snow, Sarah Ann Whitney, and Martha McBride (Knight).
It is pretty stunning that Joseph Smith married all of these women in the 3-4 months covered by Saints in this chapter, and yet not one of them is mentioned by name for these events. In fact, the only mentions of polygamy in this chapter are in the footnotes that show Joseph Smith publicly is still claiming to not teach it as we discussed above.
In addition, the Relief Society filed a petition in July 1842 that was organized by Eliza Snow, who was secretly married to Joseph Smith. In this petition, they state that "we would farther represent to your excellency concerning Joseph Smith that we have the utmost confidence in him <as being a man of> virtue integrity honesty truth & patriotism, we have never either in public or private heard him teach any principles but the principles of virtue & righteousness & so we have knowledge we know him to be a pure chaste virtuous & godly man." (Link to Petition)
We know that Joseph Smith was indeed teaching differing principles in secret, and we know from the Fanny Alger days that Joseph Smith was not a chaste man. And keep in mind that as this petition was being signed, Emma Smith had no idea what her husband was up to. And while the marriage to Sarah Ann Whitney occurs in this chapter, we will cover it more in the next.
And if you have not read our annotated essay on polygamy in Nauvoo/Kirtland, please check that out as it covers all of this in so much more detail.
Chapter Thirty Nine: The Seventh Trouble
After the last few chapters, I expected chapter 39 to keep up the same frantic pace of packing tough information into small spaces. But after reading this chapter, I was actually surprised at how little it actually covers. It discusses Joseph Smith and Porter Rockwell escaping arrest and hiding out, with the chapter culminating with the Illinois judge ordering them released.
The chapter briefly mentions at a few points the ongoing problems with John Bennett, whose letters have been resurfacing in other newspapers around the country, "damaging the church’s reputation and making it harder for missionaries to share the message of the restored gospel." They discuss how Bennett "published a book-length exposé of Joseph and the Saints. He also started giving lectures on what he called “The Secret Wife System at Nauvoo,” tantalizing audiences with wild rumors he had heard—and plenty he had made up himself—about Joseph’s plural marriages."
One of the things that Saints hasn't really highlighted is that Bennett lived with the Smiths for about 39 weeks. During that time Joseph Smith elevated him in the church and he was made the Mayor of Nauvoo. That is not to say everything that Bennett said was true by any means, but the idea that he was not privy to important information about the church is also a stretch given how close he was to Joseph during these months. Furthermore, Saints making the careful statement of "wild rumors he had heard—and plenty he had made up himself" makes one wonder exactly which statements would fall under those categories. It would be nice if Saints would give some of those statements to we can fact check them, but they do not give any specifics as to what he wrote about, which Saints has to do given that Joseph Smith is practicing polygamy in secret.
Also, it needs to be remembered that this is how Joseph Smith has operated since the beginning. When Oliver Cowdery quarreled with Joseph about his extramarital relationship with Fanny Alger, Joseph accused Oliver of stealing money and being a counterfeiter. He also trashed the reputations of the other two original witnesses, John Whitmer and Martin Harris as covered in earlier chapters. Again, that's not to say that everything Bennett said is true because we know that he had an axe to grind after being cast out by the church, but the idea that the man who was one of Joseph's closest friends for 9 months just made everything up is ludicrous as well.
Woven through the story of Joseph on the run from the sheriff is a very meticulous love story of Joseph and Emma, with Emma working at all hours to help Joseph regain his freedom. They cite the letters that Emma and Joseph send to each other, the letters that Emma sends to the governors of Illinois, and her meetings with Joseph at the safe house. Some of the phrases used in this chapter:
"Taking Emma’s hand, Joseph listened as the group sat in the boat and spoke quietly about the situation in Nauvoo."
"Yet he felt the most gratitude for Emma. “Again she is here,” he thought, “even in the seventh trouble, undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma!”"
"Emma communicated regularly with Joseph over the following days and weeks. When they could not meet in person, they exchanged letters."
"In the fall of 1842, Governor Carlin responded to Emma’s second letter, expressing admiration for her devotion to her husband but ultimately refusing to help her."
What Saints does not mention is that while Emma is dedicated to helping her husband Joseph Smith around the clock, Joseph Smith is now married to over 20 women behind her back, having sex with at least a portion of them while Emma remained unaware of what her husband was up to. In addition, he is even trying to schedule meetings with these women while Emma is not at the safe house. As we mentioned in the last chapter, Joseph Smith has married Sarah Ann Whitney. While he is at the safe house, he wrote a letter to her (and her parents) asking them to visit him.
This letter is often used by critics because of both the secrecy of it, and because Joseph asks them to come only when Emma is not there. I think that FAIR makes some reasonable points on this one since this letter is addressed to her parents as well (although keep in mind that Whitney's dad gave his daughter to Joseph, knowing it was for time and all eternity, which includes sexual relations), and they also publish the full letter which you can read as well. To me the biggest takeaways are that while Emma is working for Joseph, he is writing his new brides and asking them to visit him. While apologists claim he asks them to come when Emma is gone to avoid being followed, critics would argue it is because Emma does not know Joseph is married to these additional women.
The chapter ends with Joseph being discharged and free again after months of being in hiding, but as we said the biggest takeaway of the chapter is the depiction of Joseph and Emma without mentioning all of his other wives. As we will cover more in the following chapters, things are about to get a whole lot worse for Joseph's "undaunted, firm and unwavering, unchangeable, affectionate Emma."
Chapter Forty: United In An Everlasting Covenant
We've had a lot of polygamy in the last few chapters as Saints introduces the doctrine and this chapter is where Joseph really takes it to a new level. Our LDS annotated essay on polygamy in Kirtland/Nauvoo goes over these events in so much more detail, so we highly recommend you read that when you have some free time. It really gives this chapter a lot more context.
Saints begins this very important chapter with Joseph's return after being released following the judge ruling he would not be sent to Missouri over the assassination attempt on former Governor Boggs. There are celebrations upon his return, and "he and Emma held a dinner party to celebrate his victory and their sixteenth wedding anniversary."
As we mentioned in the last chapter, Saints works very hard to present the marriage of Joseph and Emma to be a romantic love story, with Emma working so hard to earn his freedom while they now celebrate their sixteenth wedding anniversary. What is not mentioned is that Joseph Smith at this point has over twenty wives, many of whom are for "time" meaning they include sexual relations. In addition, during the week of Joseph's sixteenth anniversary to Emma, he also would have had his first anniversary with Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner (she claimed this was for time and eternity as we mentioned in chapter 37).
One thing that Saints tries to do in this chapter is walk the line between admitting that Joseph was practicing polygamy secretly while also trying to pretend that it was being done honestly and righteously. Statements such as "yet up to now no women and only a handful of men had received the endowment, and many Saints were still unaware of the eternal marriage covenant" try to walk that tightrope while not addressing why most of the church was unaware of what Joseph had been up to.
We then are introduced to the Partridge sisters, Emily and Eliza. They had been living with the Smith family, and a year earlier Joseph had approached Emily to discuss something. "He had offered to write it in a letter, but she asked him not to do so, worried that it might say something about plural marriage." Even though she asked him not to do so, a "few days after her nineteenth birthday," Joseph Smith brought her to the home of Heber Kimball to propose to her to become one of his wives.
"Four days later, her sister Eliza was sealed to Joseph too. The sisters could now talk to each other and share what they understood and felt about the covenants they made."
Both of these marriages were for time and all eternity, meaning sexual relations were included. Again, critics (such as myself) make the argument that polygamy is a gross abuse of power, and this is a perfect example: Joseph Smith pressuring two young women who are living in his house to undertake a secret, sexual lifelong commitment while his wife remains completely unaware. While apologists claim that this is an unfair description of the event, please keep in mind the circumstances:
1. Emily and Eliza Partridge are working in Joseph's home for two years with both Joseph and his (first) wife Emma
2. Joseph approaches Emily about polygamy and she asks him not to write her a letter. "He asked me if I wished the matter ended. I said I did."
3. A year later, Joseph summons Emily to Heber Kimball's house and asks her to undertake a secret ceremony with him that she ca not tell anyone about by claiming his authority from God that the Lord "had given me (Emily) to him (Joseph)"
4. They are secretly married for time and all eternity, and Emily admitted in the Temple Lot depositions that she did have sex with him. Joseph is 38 years old at this point and Emily Partridge has just turned 19.
So again, we ask if this is a proper relationship or an abuse of power that is claimed to be from God? If it seems harsh, please read the above again. Apologists then claim that Emily received a spiritual confirmation so who are we to judge? That's actually a good point, but that also begs the question of what that confirmation means. For example, if Joseph Smith is pressuring these women as a self-proclaimed prophet (and in many cases claiming an angel would destroy him if they did not enter into polygamy with him), what reaction would one expect them to have?
There is a great podcast by Bill Reel where he discusses Lucy Walker and what she needed to do in order to receive a spiritual confirmation that she should become one of Joseph's wives. That included long periods of fasting, which makes people more emotional not to mention that being light headed makes us more prone to seeing things. Combine that with the magical worldview of the time, and it's not hard to see how some of these women received the confirmation under such a pressure situation.
We see this trend in different religions and sects today where a leader will find women who follow him to take as wives or mistresses. They have an emotional connection to this leader because they believe he is chosen, so naturally when they are presented with this choice they believe they are receiving confirmation that it is the right thing to do, because they have already been led to believe this person is chosen by God.
One last point on spiritual witnesses and polygamy: Please watch this YouTube video at the 10 minute mark. The video is of a young woman who has just entered into a polygamous marriage in an LDS offshoot. She discusses how she received confirmation from the spirit that this was the right things to do. If she can receive a false confirmation that polygamy is right in the present time, why are we to think that these women were receiving confirmations from God under such intense circumstances back then?
The next paragraph of Saints is equally telling: "The Saints continued to defend Joseph against the accusations in John Bennett’s exposé. Much of what John had written was embellished or flatly untrue, but his claim that Joseph had married multiple women was correct. Unaware of this fact, Hyrum Smith and William Law fiercely denied all of John’s statements and unwittingly condemned the actions of Saints who obediently practiced plural marriage."
First, it is amazing how many people close to Joseph had no idea what he was doing including his wife Emma and brother Hyrum. In addition, Saints continues to claim John Bennett was 100% lying about claims that Joseph was practicing spiritual wifery. Joseph Smith claimed that Bennett had been doing this practice, but we need to make a note here from Emily Partridge's own writings: "I will mention here that soon after I refused to receive a letter, Mrs. Durfee invited my sister, Eliza, and me to her house to spend the afternoon. She introduced the subject of spiritual wives, as they called it in that day." (What I Remember, Emily Dow Partridge Smith Young)
The reason that Saints has to say that Bennett "embellished" some stories is because they know that Bennett knew a lot of what was going on with Joseph Smith since he lived with him for 39 weeks and was elevated in the church during that time. If they were truly flat-out lies, they would note those lies. Again, that is not to say Bennett was an honest dealer either, but given how close he became with Joseph it is a huge stretch to pretend he did not learn a lot about some troubling issues. As we will see in the rest of this chapter, Saints itself "embellishes" quite a bit, outright distorts the record, and lies by omission quite often. This chapter absolutely would not pass the church's own definition of honesty in their handbook.
Brigham Young then wants to make sure Hyrum and William know about polygamy, because it is creating divisions among the leadership. "Once, during a council meeting, he had barely broached the issue when William interrupted. “If an angel from heaven was to reveal to me that a man should have more than one wife,” he said, “I would kill him!”"
I want to take a quick detour to congratulate William for having the courage to stand up for what is right in that comment. There is no justification for polygamy -- it did not raise up seed, it goes against basic math (the amount of boys and girls born are about even), and it's emotionally damaging.
"Brigham could see that Hyrum’s and William’s actions exhausted Joseph." Again, Saints refers to the "rumors" flying that Joseph Smith is taking additional women and he's constantly hearing how abhorrent it is. Of course that would be exhausting, but Saints wants the reader here to feel for the struggle of Joseph here.
This leads Joseph to take Brigham with to preach and defend Joseph's actions. After Hyrum was done preaching, Brigham gave his talk where he said a living prophet is more important than all the scriptures put together: "He laid the books in front of him, one by one, so everyone in the room could see. “I would not give the ashes of a rye straw for these three books,” he declared, “without the living oracles of God.”"
I've heard this talk referenced over the years, and since this chapter has me a bit angrier than most because of what a horrific practice polygamy was, I want to point out how this statement looks in our current day. The implication is that the current prophet of the church, Russell Nelson, is more valuable than the Bible because he's supposedly speaking to God. But what revelations has the church received since Joseph Smith was killed? Think of what is considered revelation under Russell Nelson - changing home teaching to ministering, a name change that Nelson has asked for since 1990, and a two hour Sunday instead of three. We wrote a blog post about how the idea of revelation has been rebranded, and I would point readers to that if they are interested in how revelation has changed over the years.
Saints then takes a small detour to talk about how Joseph reveals that “the Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man’s, and the Son also,” he taught, “but the Holy Ghost is a personage of spirit.”
We can see this theology change as we look at the changes to the First Vision, where Joseph changes from a more traditional trinitarian view to the multiple Godhead theory. It's barely mentioned here in Saints, so we'll leave it at that.
As we get back to polygamy, the following chapter from Saints is crucial: "In choosing to be sealed to Joseph, Emily trusted in her witness that she was acting in obedience to the Lord’s commandment. She and her sister Eliza continued to keep their marriages private. They and the others who practiced plural marriage never referred to it as polygamy, which they considered a worldly term, not a priesthood ordinance.When Joseph or someone else condemned “polygamy” or “spiritual wifery” in public, those who practiced plural marriage understood that they were not referring to their covenant relationships."
Often when we look at how people phrase difficult events to put a positive spin on them, we refer to them as "weasel words." This is an example of using weasel words to avoid just admitting what is going on. We put the quote above from Emily's recollections where it was referred to as spiritual wives, and we all know that polygamy has a terrible connotation because it's an awful practice and condemned in the Bible and Book of Mormon.
So the church likes to use "plural marriage" because it's a more positive spin on a rough doctrine. Again we can't know exactly what happened, but we have a lot of information that shows Joseph Smith had extramarital relationships dating back to Fanny Alger, which was before he claimed to have sealing keys that would make the idea that this is not a "worldly" event quite deceptive.
We often refer to our annotated LDS essay on polygamy, and these paragraphs are really good times to read that if you haven't. You can read that by clicking here. The next paragraph is a reason why: "Aside from the Bible, Joseph had no models or precedents to follow, and the Lord did not always give him exact instructions on how to obey His word. As with other commandments and revelations, Joseph had to move forward according to his best judgment."
We discuss this in our annotated essay, but D&C 132 is actually extremely specific. The idea that Joseph Smith had no instructions and just had to go on his "best judgment" is just not accurate. Please read D&C 132 from start to finish and look at how specific the rules are not just for Joseph, but for poor Emma. Don't take our words for it - read D&C 132 and if you're feeling up to it, read our annotated essay that goes over the parts of D&C 132 that Joseph violated.
"Because neither Joseph nor Emma wrote down how they felt about plural marriage, many questions are left unanswered. In her writings, Emily recorded some of their struggles with the practice. At times Emma rejected it completely while at other times reluctantly accepting it as a commandment. Torn between the Lord’s mandate to practice plural marriage and Emma’s opposition, Joseph sometimes chose to marry women without Emma’s knowledge, creating distressing situations for everyone involved."
Again, this is true in the sense that we don't have a lot of real-time journals from Emma about polygamy, nor do we have Joseph writing much down about it. The reason is that Joseph kept this a secret as did his wives. Emma did not know about these marriages and the reason we know that she was unaware is because Joseph will soon remarry Emily and Eliza Partridge after Emma chooses them for Joseph's polygamous wives. If Emma had any idea what Joseph Smith was doing while she was at home thinking all was well, she would never have asked Joseph Smith to marry two women he was already married to.
Last, claiming that "Joseph sometimes chose to marry women without Emma’s knowledge" is misleading because for at least the first twenty wives or so we know he wasn't telling her. Saints can argue it was because he knew Emma was opposed to him marrying and having sex with other women, but as stated above we know that Emma did not know what Joseph was doing.
"In early May, Emma took Emily and Eliza aside and explained the principle of plural marriage to them. She had told Joseph that she would consent to him being sealed to two additional wives as long as she could choose them, and she had chosen Emily and Eliza, apparently unaware that Joseph had already been sealed to them."
OK... there it is. Saints uses the weasel words "apparently unaware" about Emma and the Partridge sisters. There is no "apparently" about it. If Emma knew Joseph was married to them, she would not give permission to marry them again! That is so dishonest and this is the book that the church proclaims as the "Standard of Truth." Imagine lying through your Bishop's interviews and then later noting that they were "apparently unaware" of what you were up to. To quote Zoolander, 'I feel like I'm taking crazy pills.'
"Rather than mention her former sealing, Emily believed that keeping silent on the matter was the best thing for her to do.A few days later, she and Eliza were again sealed to Joseph, this time with Emma as a witness."
How could anyone read these paragraphs and not see how emotionally damaging polygamy was? Not just to Emma, who married Joseph Smith sixteen years earlier thinking she would be the only wife, but to the Partridge sisters who have to live in secret because they were told it was what God specifically chose for them.
"On May 14, while Joseph was away at another conference, Hyrum preached in the temple against men having more than one wife. Referring to Jacob’s condemnation of unauthorized plural marriages in the Book of Mormon, Hyrum called the practice an abomination before God."
Good for Hyrum -- it's amazing how everyone knew what a horrible practice polygamy was until Joseph told them God revealed it to him. Not only is polygamy detested in the Bible and Book of Mormon, but it will ultimately be what ends Joseph Smith's life as he torches the Nauvoo Expositor that was trying to expose the practice to those outside of the church.
"After the sermon, Hyrum began to question his own certainty about what he taught. Discussions about plural marriage swirled around Nauvoo, and rumors that Joseph had several wives were also common.
Hyrum wanted to believe this was not the case, but he wondered if Joseph was not telling him something. There had been times, after all, when Joseph had alluded to the practice, perhaps testing Hyrum to see how he would react. And Hyrum sensed there were some things that Joseph told the Twelve that he had not taught him."
Again, "rumors" swirled because at this point Joseph Smith was married to over 20 women. They aren't rumors - they are facts that were swirling around. Saints tries to use these words to soften the impact, but let's call it what it is. If polygamy truly is from God, why is the church so afraid to truly discuss the details of the people involved and the impacts on their lives?
Brigham Young then tells Hyrum about polygamy, and Hyrum "wept, convinced that Joseph acted under commandment." Again, a faith promoting story to say there was a spiritual confirmation of its divine origins. This is sourced from a discourse by Brigham Young 23 years later... when Brigham was heavily into polygamy to the point where he told people that must at least believe in the doctrine with all their heart to get into the celestial kingdom. That's not to say it didn't happen since we weren't there, but it should be noted that it was told 23 years later by Brigham Young and not Hyrum during a time when Brigham was aggressively pushing polygamy.
"In late May 1843, Emma and Joseph were sealed together for eternity in a room above Joseph’s store, solemnizing at last what they had long desired."
Joseph Smith was sealed to Emma after he had been sealed/married to over 20 other women. His first wife whom we are told had such a great relationship with him had to wait until Joseph had undertaken this eternal vow with over 20 other women. I don't know what more to say.
Saints ends the chapter by talking about how those who have lost their spouses can be sealed to the deceased spouse in proxy, which solves a problem that Hyrum Smith and Mercy Thompson.
"Before the meeting, Hyrum worried about his complicated family situation. If the blessings of eternal marriage belonged only to those who had been sealed together by the priesthood, what would happen to his first wife, Jerusha, who had died six years earlier?
“You can have her sealed to you upon the same principle as you can be baptized for the dead,” Joseph said.
“What can I do for my second wife?” Hyrum asked.
“You can also make a covenant with her for eternity,” Joseph said."
This conversation is really important because it highlights that polygamy is still the rule for eternity, and the current prophet is sealed to two women. The idea that Mormons no longer believe in polygamy is just not true - they don't do it here on Earth, but it absolutely plays a vital role in the afterlife. Now women can't be sealed to additional men, but in the celestial kingdom those women will likely be sharing their husbands for eternity. Many women like to avoid those difficult issues by claiming that "we don't know what happens after we die," but in this case we clearly do.
I know this chapter we have had a harsher tone than in other chapters, but we also feel we've made some compelling reasons why we are so angry by this chapter. It tells a very glossed over story, and ignores some crucial details. We could have written so much more about this chapter - there are stories about these women that should be read by all members looking for the truth.
We'd also mention that this chapter does not mention the threats to Emma Smith in D&C 132 if she does not submit to polygamy, nor does it mention the offer that was apparently made to her. "And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law"
Apologists argue that this isn't about polygamy but just being faithful to Joseph Smith in marriage. Given the circumstances and the theme of the revelation this seems dubious to us. We know that polygamy was painful for Emma, and this part of the revelation appears to be a message to Emma to get in line with it at least in her heart, as Brigham Young would later tell the church they need to do in order to enter the celestial kingdom.
Another interesting excerpt from D&C 132: "A commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hand, by covenant and sacrifice."
No one knows for sure what the offer was - some believe it was an offer for Emma to take a second husband (with some circumstantial evidence pointing to Emma wanting William Law as a husband), a divorce from Joseph, or some other offer. But the fact that Joseph offered something to Emma and then takes it back when recording D&C 132 in the name of the Lord is pretty striking, and a part of D&C 132 that you'll never hear in Sunday school.
The church has cited In Sacred Loneliness in their works, and that is a good read to learning what these women went through to give up their chance at a loving marriage to accept Joseph's proposals to be his polygamous wives. It was painful for these women, it took away their chance at true love, and it was damaging for the husbands who had their wives sealed to another man for eternity.
We will end the chapter here, but please read our annotated essay on polygamy if you have time in the future. It really drills down the problems with polygamy, D&C 132, and Joseph Smith's practice of it a lot better, and shows when this chapter of Saints is misleading at best.
Chapter Forty One: God Must Be the Judge
After the doctrine of polygamy was more formally rolled out in chapter forty, Saints starts this chapter with a more fluffy narrative about missions to new areas such as Hawaii. It talks of the struggles the wives faced while their husbands were on missions, and how they found strength by believing in the church.
Saints then discusses how Joseph and Emma leave for a trip and ask that church members continue to help build the temple. They discuss how the temple would contain the endowment ceremony that we discussed a few chapters ago that mirrors the Masonic ceremonies that Joseph learned just weeks prior.
Joseph was then again threatened with arrest for the charge of treason in Missouri after former Governor Boggs was shot, but ultimately a judge declares the arrest invalid. This is a great example though of how Saints will make Joseph Smith seem like an absolute superhero when he is in control of the situation, with quotes such as "I have no fear,” Joseph said. “Missourians cannot hurt me." Or when the two men trying to arrest Joseph Smith point a gun at him, Saints tells us that he declares"“Shoot away!” Joseph said, baring his chest. “I am not afraid of your pistols.”"
This narrative writing is pulled from Joseph's journals, which is why we point out how Saints always paints Joseph in such a glowing light because they only use sources that are either written by him or by those who are close to him at the time (notice that they will write the good things that people who fall away from the church say, but after just paint them as apostates). Anyway, the paragraph this narrative writing is pulled from is as follows:
""I answered I am not afraid of your shooting I am not afraid to die, I then bared my breast and told them to shoot away, I have endured so much oppression, I am weary of life, and kill me if you please. I am a strong man however, and with my own natural weapons, could soon level both of you, but if you have any legal process to serve, I am at all times subject to Law, and shall not offer resistance. Reynolds replied God damn you if you say another word we’ll shoot you by God.” I answered shoot away I am not afraid of your Pistols."" (Joseph Smith Papers)
Readers of course ultimately have to decide if they believe Joseph Smith spoke and acted this way with guns pointed at him. It's just important again to note that these sources tend to be from Joseph, his mother, or those close to him at the time. Saints could really benefit from a more open history that doesn't rely solely on faith promoting materials if it wants to call itself "the Standard of Truth."
Joseph then heads back into Nauvoo, "flanked by a few lawmen and his rescuers on horseback. Emma, who had already returned to Nauvoo with the children, rode out with Hyrum to meet Joseph as the Nauvoo Brass Band played patriotic songs and people fired guns and cannons in celebration. A parade of carriages soon joined them, drawn by horses decorated with prairie flowers."
Obviously this is probably how it happened as the church was happy and relieved to see that Joseph Smith wasn't being taken back to Missouri. My criticism here is that once again Saints uses these fluffy stories to wrap around the difficult ones, as we're going to see here yet again after a quick introduction of Jane Manning.
Jane Manning is a bit of a hero in Mormon history, as she was an early black member who traveled by foot across many states to join the church. During this journey she endured many hardships including rough weather, no money, and people asking her for her papers to prove she wasn't a slave.
While Saints uses Jane's story to wrap around the very uncomfortable polygamy history coming next, I just want to point out here that the Jane Manning story goes against how this church would operate for the next 130+ years after Joseph Smith's death. As we mention in our annotated LDS essay on race and the priesthood, there is a great article about how the church treated Jane Manning on the Feminist Mormon Housewives website. Bottom line is that after everything she did to be a part of this church, the church refused to give her the endowment or seal her for eternity.
Perhaps Saints will cover this in their next book, but Jane Manning died in the church after being refused the blessings that everyone else who was white could freely get. She repeatedly petitioned the first presidency for the endowment, but they always refused.
In 1894, then prophet Wilford Woodruff wrote: “Black Jane wanted to know if I would not let her have her endowments in the temple [.] This I could not do as it was against the law of God as Cain killed Abel all the seed of Cain would have to wait for redemption until [sic] all the seed that Abel would have had that may come through other men can be redeemed.”
As the article from Feminist Mormon Housewives continues, "In an effort to pacify Jane, the First Presidency “decided she might be adopted into the family of Joseph Smith as a servant, which was done, a special ceremony having been prepared for the purpose.” The ceremony took place on May 18, 1894 at the Salt Lake Temple. Joseph F. Smith acted as proxy for Joseph Smith, and Bathsheba W. Smith acting as proxy for Jane because, as a woman of African descent, Jane was not permitted to enter the temple. In the ceremony, Jane was “attached as a Servitor [servant] for eternity to the prophet Joseph Smith and . . . his family” and “instructed to be obedient to him in all things in the Lord as a faithful Servitor.”"
We're going to leave the Jane Manning story there for now, because it is enraging to read how this church effectively created doctrine that banned blacks from their ceremonies that leaders today say they have no understanding of how it came to be. Until the church is really willing to look at how the revelation to both implement and remove this ban came to be, critics will argue that is shows there is no direct line to God as God would not want so many families to suffer for the supposed sins of their ancestors. You can read how that revelation to remove the ban went down in our annotated LDS essay, which shows it was anything but a revelation.
After Saints gets readers to feel good with faith promoting stories, they drop the difficult material about 60%+ of the way through. It basically discusses how Emma Smith did not believe Joseph's polygamy revelation, and that she was not happy about the torment that Joseph was putting her through. Hyrum Smith then tells his brother "If you will write the revelation, I will take and read it to Emma, and I believe I can convince her of its truth, and you will hereafter have peace... The doctrine is so plain, I can convince any reasonable man or woman of its truth, purity, and heavenly origin."
I'm just going to state two things here: First, throughout church history Joseph Smith will receive revelation when he's being questioned, which typically forces those questioning him to repent, which is what Hyrum is looking for here. Second, the doctrine is not plain and almost no reasonable people can be convinced of its truth. If that were the case, Joseph would not have been lying about it to everyone to hide the truth from them. Furthermore, even today the church rarely teaches about polygamy because it is so vile, so damaging, and so hurtful. The idea that any reasonable person could be convinced of its heavenly origin is just madness, as evidenced by the overwhelming disgust of the practice by anyone not involved in it through the Mormon church.
Joseph replies to Hyrum that “You do not know Emma as well as I do,” but writes down the revelation to give to Emma. This is where it gets really good, as the church paints Emma out to be the unreasonable doubter and Joseph as the person who has tried so hard to keep this from hurting his 'beloved Emma.'
From Saints: "That spring and summer, he had been sealed to additional women, including a few whom Emma had personally selected. Yet helping Joseph choose wives had not made obeying the principle easy for Emma."
As we know from the last chapter, Joseph Smith had to hold a second wedding ceremony because the Partridge sisters that Emma chose for him were already married to Joseph behind her back! Furthermore, look at the weasel words in this part of Saints: "he had been sealed to additional women, including a few whom Emma had personally selected"
When you say that "a few whom Emma had personally selected," you are admitting by omission that Joseph continued to marry wives behind her back. That is again in opposition to D&C 132 which says the first wife must have a chance to give consent first, even though Joseph continually did it in secret without her ever knowing.
Saints continues: "Much of the revelation was already known to Joseph. It described the new and everlasting covenant of eternal marriage, along with associated blessings and promises. It also revealed the terms governing plural marriage, which Joseph had learned while translating the Bible in 1831. The remainder of the revelation was new counsel for him and Emma, addressing their questions and current struggles with plural marriage."
The church loves to say that Joseph Smith already knew of the revelation before he finally "recorded" it in 1843. The problem is that they reference 1831 because there is a record of a revelation that Joseph gave to others about polygamy, but that revelation had nothing to do with polygamy as Joseph Smith discussed it in 1843. From our critical notes in the annotated LDS essay on polygamy: "The people referred to here (who heard of the earlier revelation about polygamy from Joseph) are W.W. Phelps, Oliver Cowdery and five other men who received instruction for their mission to the Indians to take “wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just.” This is probably not mentioned specifically in the essay because of its racist overtones and contradiction to the instructions in D&C 132."
Church apologists note that these details were written by WW Phelps in 1861, 30 years after they happened, and therefore should not be taken so literally. But here's the problem: the entire early history of the church is riddled with stories written decades later. Read our early chapters of reviewing Saints and just look at how much of the early stories of the church were only told by Joseph's mother decades later.
Is it possible that W.W. Phelps was not remembering what happened correctly? Sure, but it's all we have to go on and the church references 1831 in the header of D&C 132, so what else are we supposed to believe happened in 1831? Furthermore, if you are to question this because it wasn't written until later, do we then throw out the multiple First Vision accounts, the changes to revelations, all of Lucy Mack Smith's writings about Joseph's heroic actions in running with golden plates while knocking attackers away, the idea that Joseph was actually married to Fanny Alger and not having an affair, how the Book of Mormon was translated, etc, etc?
The point is that the church uses 1831 all the time to say that Joseph began talking about the revelation of polygamy then, and this is the story behind it. This is the problem where the church wants to have its cake and eat it too: They want to be able to say that Joseph was talking about polygamy since 1831 to cover the Fanny Alger polygamous relationship or affair, yet they want to dismiss the details of the 1831 revelation because it's incredibly racist and offensive to think that having sex with Indian women would turn them 'white and delightsome,' as the Book of Mormon likes to say.
And the last part of the above paragraph is another problem: "It also revealed the terms governing plural marriage, which Joseph had learned while translating the Bible in 1831."
For those who have never seen the story before, BYU has a study that is coming out soon that details how Joseph Smith plagiarized the 'Joseph Smith Translation' of the Bible heavily from Adam Clarke's Biblical commentaries. You can read about that on our site here, but that study puts Joseph Smith's translation abilities of the Bible into a whole new light. If he was simply using other sources to rewrite parts of the Bible, how in the world are we supposed to believe that Joseph Smith got the revelation from God while translating the Bible? In addition to that, Joseph Smith claims the revelation came when reading about how Abraham was commanded to take another wife from God, which did not happen. It was Sarah who told Abraham to take another women to have a child, and Joseph Smith either got that wrong or intentionally deceived by claiming otherwise. Regardless, there is just not basis for polygamy, which is why the church works so hard to distance itself from it today.
There are apologists who try to paint Joseph as the victim, having to lie to Emma in order to fulfill God's revelation and commandments. But if you read these chapters or our annotated essay on polygamy, it becomes clear as day that this was not a revelation from God. The rationale behind it is completely flawed in every way, and Joseph Smith still managed to violate the terms of it by marrying women who were already married (and not virgins), not asking Emma for consent before doing so, and by not raising seed with this women even though we have documentation that he was having sex with many of them.
One last point of proof that polygamy was not from God. Compare the differences between the Book of Mormon and D&C 132:
Jacob 2:24 - Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
D&C 132: 38 - David also received many wives and concubines, and also Solomon and Moses my servants, as also many others of my servants, from the beginning of creation until this time; and in nothing did they sin save in those things which they received not of me.
39- David’s wives and concubines were given unto him of me…
There is simply no way to reconcile these two scriptures - one of which Joseph revealed before he started practicing polygamy, and the other that he revealed after he had begun taking plural wives. Either God changed His mind, or Joseph Smith was changing his theology as he went, which is something we see in the First Vision accounts, changes to the priesthood revelation, using outside sources for doctrine such as three tiers of heaven, Masonic ceremonies for the endowment ceremony, and so much more.
This review has already gone a little long, but we're not quite done yet. Saints now goes on to really twist the knife in Emma, who is tormented by what Joseph has been doing behind her back (and continued to do so). From Saints: "Although the revelation was directed to the Saints, it ended with counsel for Emma about Joseph’s plural wives. “Let mine handmaid, Emma Smith, receive all those that have been given unto my servant Joseph,” the Lord instructed. He commanded her to forgive Joseph, stay with him, and keep her covenants, promising to bless and multiply her and give her reason to rejoice if she did. He also warned her of the dire consequences that befell those who broke their covenants and disobeyed the law of the Lord."
Saints has the nerve to use the phrase "dire consequences" here. They are willing to quote from D&C 132 when it promotes faith, but not when it makes Joseph Smith (or God, if you believe it is from him) look like a monster. The "dire consequences" come from verse 54: "And I command mine handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord thy God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law."
There's a reason the church doesn't teach these verses of D&C 132 to others -- it is an abomination. Critics would argue that this revelation has no foundation to begin with as we described above, but if you are a woman in the church please understand this is still the law of the afterlife. So the question you must ask yourself is: Is the kind of eternity you want? Do you want to be subject to a husband in the celestial kingdom who will continue to have sex with other women, and if you refuse to go along with it you will be destroyed?
Many women in the church have said (once they leave) that this is something they could just not allow themselves to think about, because the truth is that the Mormon church still considers this doctrine that is applicable to eternity. Women not only are forbidden to take additional husbands, but they are forced to accept whatever women their only husband brings in to the family. While the church likes to say "It will all work out in the end," please understand the church leaders saying that are men that will never have to worry about sharing their wives in the afterlife.
Hyrum shows the revelation to Emma, who had "become angry and rejected it." He returns to Joseph to tell him the news, to which Joseph replied "I told you you did not know Emma as well as I did."
This leads to long discussions between Joseph and Emma, and Saints then declares they worked through their problems. This paragraph from Saints again seems really disingenuous:
"Emma seemed especially worried about the future. What if Joseph’s enemies found out about plural marriage? Would he go to prison again? Would he be killed? She and the children depended on Joseph for support, but the family’s finances were entwined with the church’s. How would they get by if something happened to him?"
Of course Emma worried about these things anyway since Joseph was constantly under threat of the law and others. Ask any woman what they would worry about if their husband began taking additional wives, having sex with them, and keeping it a secret from them. I suppose I can't speak for everyone, but the list Saints gives above would be much, much different than what they have here. That paragraph also does not appear to be in the sourced links, so it makes one wonder if the authors of Saints here are trying to redirect their readers away from the truly abhorrent problems with polygamy.
Later in the chapter, Saints discusses how Emma threw the Partridge sisters out of the house. Saints then describes how Emily Partridge felt after being kicked out by Emma after being married to Joseph twice: "Feeling cast off, Emily left the room, angry at Emma and Joseph. “When the Lord commands,” she told herself, “His word is not to be trifled with.” She intended to do as Emma wished, but she refused to break her marriage covenant."
I don't know what more to say about how damaging polygamy is, but this is another instance where you can see just how flimsy the whole thing was. They are married, but they do not share love or life experiences. Apologists like to claim the polygamous marriages were just about creating dynasties, but if that were the case why would Joseph need to marry two sisters? Just marrying one sister would forever tie the families together. Furthermore, if it was simply about creating dynastic relationships, why would the women not marry a husband they loved? Why would Joseph have sex with them if it was only about dynasties? And how can you reconcile that with the purpose of D&C 132 which is to raise up seed?
The chapter ends here, and I just am so depressed reading what these women went through. I highly recommend reading our annotated essay on polygamy which goes into more details and the book In Sacred Loneliness by LDS member Todd Compton. While the church paints polygamy as a spiritually uplifting experience, many women struggled mightily with it, and husbands left them alone as they visited the different wives. The first wife was often ignored as the husband found younger wives, and this is something that was even admitted in the 'Face to Face' webcast to unveil the Saints book.
Before we end this, I want to note that this is the time period when Joseph Smith did his 'partial translation' of the Kinderhook plates. While Joseph Smith translated just a portion of the plates, we learned later that the plates were a hoax designed to prove Joseph a fraud. Because he did not live much past this time, he never translated any more of them (and we don't know if he would have or not), but clearly he did not have the discernment to know that he was being tricked. Since Saints does not want to mention it, I feel like I would not be the 'Standard of Truth' if I did not mention it. We created a page about the Kinderhook Plates and while they might not be a smoking gun like the Book of Abraham, they do matter more than apologists want to admit.
Chapter Forty Two: Round Up Your Shoulders
After what was a pretty heavy last chapter, Saints starts off with a little bit of a breather in chapter 42. They begin with a story about Phoebe and Wilford Woodruff being taught about the "new and everlasting covenant."
One thing that is interesting here is that the church has worked hard since polygamy ended to associate the term "new and everlasting covenant" with a temple marriage as opposed to polygamy. The reality, however, is that polygamy was tied to this idea in every way, so much so that polygamy is still doctrine in the church and is practiced in the afterlife. While the church likes to downplay the idea, the doctrine is clear that every woman in the church is subject to a husband that can be sealed to multiple women in this lifetime (the current prophet is sealed to two women) and that they could marry additional women in the afterlife under the "new and everlasting covenant."
Saints then discusses how Joseph Smith performed the endowment for Emma, and that Emma began performing the ordinance herself. These tidbits are always interesting because the church wants to tell these stories to show that women were a part of the early church, but they also don't want to admit that women were allowed to do much more in this time than they are today. During this time, women were allowed to give blessings just as men do today under the priesthood.
Next is where Saints jumps the shark in this chapter. Many church members who are familiar with history know of William Law, who was a big part of the church who would leave and end up writing the Nauvoo Expositor. Just as Saints has done with previous figures that leave the church, they begin destroying the character and integrity of these figures so that when they do leave the church the reader is always suspicious of their motives and actions.
Take this paragraph from Saints: "That fall, while meeting regularly with the endowed Saints, William Law hid from Joseph and Hyrum the fact that he was guilty of adultery. In committing the sin, William felt like he had transgressed against his own soul."
Here's the problem: the only sources that reference William Law committing adultery are a journal from Alexander Neibaur on May 24, 1844 (which Saints relies on heavily in this chapter), and a speech from Hyrum Smith in June 1844. Both of these are months after William Law was excommunicated, and just days/weeks after William Law announced plans for the Nauvoo Expositor. It would fit Joseph's pattern of accusing those who oppose him of the very things that he was involved in: Joseph accused John Bennett of 'spiritual wifery' as he was beginning polygamy and he accused Oliver Cowdery of counterfeiting as the Kirtland Safety Society was issuing bank notes for a bank that Joseph created without a charter.
More to the point, here is what FAIR even concedes on their page about why William Law left the church: "It is not clear whether Jane and William Law were ever sealed. Alexander Neibaur and Hyrum Smith both reported that Joseph told William he could not seal him to Jane because the Lord forbade it; Neibaur indicated that this was because William was “a Adulterous person.” There is no evidence of this other than Neibaur's statement however."
So Saints is basing this entire claim on one journal entry in order to destroy the character of William Law, which is a very questionable move for a book that proclaims itself to be the "Standard of Truth." And the bigger problem here is that if we are open to including single sourced stories, it gets messy quickly.
For example, Ann Eliza Young (polygamous wife of Brigham Young who wrote the critical book Wife no. 19) wrote the following from William and Jane law: "At one of these meetings, William Law electrified and almost stunned his listeners by testifying that the Prophet had made dishonorable proposals to his wife, Mrs. Law, making the request under cover of his asserted " Revelation," that the Lord had commanded that he should take spiritual wives, to add to his glory. He also stated that Smith made his visit to his wife in the middle of the night, when he knew her husband to be absent. Mrs. Law was present, and her husband called upon her to testify as to whether he had made the statement correctly. She corroborated all that he had said, and added that Joseph had asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband." (Wife no. 19, page 61)
It is impossible to know what the truth is, but we have many recorded incidents of Joseph Smith proposing to women who are married already while their husbands are away. We have stories where Joseph proposes to women who are living with him, some of which he referred to as his children. Saints, of course, does not mention the details of these stories for obvious reasons, but the pattern gives just as much credibility to Ann Eliza Young's story as Saints does with a single journal entry from Alexander Neibaur.
Saints talks about how Hyrum gave the revelation on polygamy to William Law, who then begged Joseph Smith to renounce the practice. Joseph, as we know, refuses to give up polygamy as he claims it is from God. Saints then gives us yet another bit of questionable speculation: "At some point, William became sick and finally confessed his adultery to Hyrum, admitting to his friend that he did not feel worthy to live or die. Yet he wanted to be sealed for eternity to Jane, and he asked Joseph if that were possible. Joseph took the question to the Lord, and the Lord revealed that William could not receive the ordinance because he was adulterous."
You'll be shocked to know that this is heavily sources from Neibaur's journal. Furthermore, we know Joseph Smith had engaged in an extramarital relationship with Fanny Alger before he had the sealed power or the revelation on polygamy, which makes one wonder why God would allow Joseph to continue without punishment while refusing to allow William Law to be sealed to Jane.
Following Joseph refusing to seal William and Jane, Saints continues to unleash an all out attack on William Law: "Now William’s heart began to burn with anger against Joseph. In late December, he and Jane stopped meeting with the endowed Saints. Jane advised that they sell their property quietly and simply leave Nauvoo. But William wanted to crush Joseph. He began plotting secretly with others who opposed the prophet, and not long after, he lost his place in the First Presidency."
Not only is Saints looking to turn the reader against William Law here, but against anyone who speaks out against the problems with the church. These lines are absolutely designed to tell the readers that anyone who seeks to speak out against the church is not to be listened to, and they chose these words carefully to guide the emotions of the reader.
As Saints tends to do, instead of pointing out the issues that many members had with Joseph or the church, they circle the wagons around Joseph Smith against any blame: "Since the organization of the church, Joseph had seen men and women leave the faith when they disagreed with the principles he taught or when he fell short of their notions of what a prophet should be."
We've highlighted the areas throughout our review of Saints why early members left, but many of them left because Joseph Smith made mistakes that do not fit with a prophet that speaks to God as often as Joseph himself claimed to - not just about "falling short" of what people expected a prophet to be. Among the reasons that members left the church:
The failed Kirtland Safety Society (chapter 23), where members gave their life savings to Joseph Smith's bank that went under, costing some early members everything they had.
The failures in Missouri after telling members if they were faithful that God would deliver them. In addition, some members took issue with Joseph marching them from Kirtland to Missouri only to turn around once he realized how outnumbered they were, leaving the members in Missouri without help.
Some members had major issues when Joseph took on an extramarital relationship with Fanny Alger (whether we want to call it an affair or a marriage; chapter 18), and some took issues with Joseph receiving revelations that helped him out of jams like not having to sail on rough waters (chapter 12) or asking people to sell their property in other states to gather in an area that God did not protect them in as Joseph claimed would happen.
Again, I am not trying to beat a dead horse here, but Saints tries to make the reason people leave the church so petty and small, when in reality they are significant reasons that go well beyond that idea that Joseph was simply an 'imperfect man.' We know a lot more today than the members did at the time, but even looking at how Joseph repeatedly violated his own revelation in D&C 132 goes well beyond just being an 'imperfect man' which is why he is struggling while hiding so many wives from Emma, from his own church, and from the public.
Saints then discusses how Joseph Smith planned his run for president. Keep in mind that at this point Joseph Smith considered himself a prophet, mayor, general, and the newly formed Council of Fifty called Joseph the world's "Prophet, Priest, and King." (Clayton 1844–1846, pp. 265, 267)
The Council of Fifty was established to be the government of the world when Jesus came back, and they elected Joseph Smith to lead this council until Jesus came back. It is important to remember that the church believed that the second coming was just around the corner, and Joseph Smith taught that as well. In D&C 130, which was recorded in April 1843 (around this chapter), Joseph makes reference that if he lived to be 85 years old (around 1890) he would see Jesus return:
14 I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
15 Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter.
16 I was left thus, without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing, or whether I should die and thus see his face.
Apologists argue that Joseph was actually correct in this revelation, because Jesus did not come before that time as we now know, and that he could have meant that he would see Jesus when he died. The one problem I'd point out there is that Joseph claimed to have seen Jesus before, so clearly that would not be the intent of Joseph's question seeking this revelation. While apologists like to claim this revelation does not mean Jesus returning to Earth, it is pretty clear that it's the only option that makes sense considering Joseph claimed to have seen Jesus face to face before.
Sorry for the slight detour there, but it's important to note that the church truly believed the Second Coming was going to happen within their generation. This is important because the Council of Fifty was created so that Jesus could take Joseph's spot as the King of the world upon His return. Obviously that has not happened in the last 170 years, and the Council of Fifty was quietly disbanded long ago.
As Joseph began his run for president, he thought of new places in the country that the church could settle including "California, Oregon, and Texas, all of which were then outside the borders of the United States. “Send out a delegation and investigate the locations,” he directed the Twelve. “Find a good location where we can remove after the temple is completed and build a city in a day and have a government of our own in a healthy climate.”"
It is interesting that the church was looking to relocate outside of the borders of the United States, so they could create their own system of government. And speaking of prophecies, here is another one about the US government from Joseph Smith that never came to pass:
"I prophecy in the name of the Lord God of Israel, unless the United States redress the wrongs committed upon the Saints in the state of Missouri and punish the crimes committed by her officers that in a few years the government will be utterly overthrown and wasted, and there will not be so much as a potsherd left for their wickedness in permitting the murder of men, women and children, and the wholesale plunder and extermination of thousands of her citizens to go unpunished, thereby perpetrating a foul and corroding blot upon the fair fame of this great republic, the very thought of which would have caused the high-minded and patriotic framers of the Constitution of the United States to hide their faces with shame." (History of the Church, 5:394)
Apologists argue that this was fulfilled because Missouri suffered greatly in the Civil War, and that the party in power was overthrown. You can see these arguments at FAIR's page on this prophecy. I would ask you to read the paragraph above again and ask yourself if you think this pertains only to Missouri or to one political party in the government. Occam's Razor would pretty clearly state that Joseph's words here are about the United States government being "utterly overthrown and wasted," completely negating the arguments that FAIR makes. Last, Joseph clearly says "in a few years," but the Civil War did not start for 18 years after this. Apologists often try to reinvent Joseph Smith's words to make them work, but if you take Joseph at face value here it is pretty clear this is a failed prophecy.
This chapter ends with Joseph Smith sealing the apostles with the keys to the priesthood, as he is about to run for president as well as the feeling that something might happen. "“It may be that my enemies will kill me,” he said, “and in case they should, and the keys and power which rest on me not be imparted to you, they will be lost from the earth.” He said he felt compelled to confer upon the Twelve Apostles all priesthood keys so he could rest assured that the work of the Lord would continue."
One note here is that the source for this part of the chapter is from Orson Hyde and Parley Pratt, both written in 1845. That is not to say this did not happen as it did, but Orson Hyde has a history of writing stories that did not happen such as the transfiguration of Brigham Young. It would serve the church better for Orson and Parley to write stories discussing the power being handed down after Joseph's death, so it makes critics wonder how accurate the accounts are. The main quotes from Saints are from Orson Hyde's statement, as we mentioned he claimed to see the transfiguration of Brigham Young even though we know he wasn't even present at the meeting! Furthermore, they are trying to remember a statement given about a year earlier, which is extremely difficult to do with any accuracy given how memories change especially with the events that would take place soon after the event happened.
This was another long recap and I think it could have been a whole lot longer. It really shows how the church is willing to use thinly sourced materials when it serves their purpose, yet refuse to even acknowledge troubling issues that are thinly sourced. As we have repeatedly mentioned, this is not what you would expect from a book that calls itself the "Standard of Truth," and this book is actually less transparent than the Gospel Topics Essays released 4-5 years ago. For a church that claims to be as 'transparent as they know how' to be, it really feels like any member who reads Saints and then does their homework will have many more questions than answers.
Chapter Forty Three: A Public Nuisance
After chapter 42 used a thinly sourced accusation to demonize William Law as an adulterer, chapter 43 picks right off to attack William. "In late March 1844, Hyrum tried to reconcile the two men, but William refused to make amends as long as the prophet upheld plural marriage." One question I have here is: Would it make sense for someone who was an adulterer to be opposed to polygamy?
Saints then references affidavits in the Nauvoo Neighbor that they claim show that William Law was conspiring to kill Joseph: "Around the same time, Joseph heard that William and several others in town were conspiring to kill him and his family." If you read the affidavits, you can see that the only reference to killing Joseph was that the person giving it (A.B. Williams) made a comment that he wouldn't be surprised if they killed the Smiths. That's not to make light of the situation, but it's a very large stretch from "conspiring to kill him and his family" to what the affidavit actually says. You can read the affidavits from the Nauvoo Neighbor for yourself.
One thing that is interesting about this chapter is that everyone is spying on each other. Joseph Smith sends Emer and Denison Harris to spy on the "conspirators" to see what they were discussing, and likewise those who were against the church had been trying to infiltrate and spy on the inner workings of the church as well.
Saints then discusses the King Follett discourse, which is where Joseph Smith told members that they (the men) would become gods someday themselves. Joseph Smith also declared that God was once a man, and that all people (men) in the church would have that same opportunity to be a god themselves someday. It is a very controversial statement, because it is the first time that the plurality of gods is taught to the church, and it is one of the areas that the Nauvoo Expositor will write about at the end of this chapter.
As Joseph is wrapping up the discourse, Saints has this line: "Standing before the Saints, Joseph was no longer the rough, unschooled farm boy who had sought wisdom in a grove of trees. Day by day, year by year, the Lord had polished him like a stone, slowly shaping him into a better instrument for His hands."
One thing that is so disappointing about Saints is how they work so hard to make Joseph Smith the most amazing, unimpeachable person. That doesn't mean they claim he is infallible, but so often they reference how the members are at fault for questioning him, but rarely do they call out Joseph Smith for his errors like the Kirtland Safety Society, his extramarital relationship (affair or potential polygamous marriage with no marriage record) to Fanny Alger, or failing in revelations as we noted in the previous chapter.
Joseph makes this comment near the end of the discourse: "“You never knew my heart,” he said. “I don’t blame you for not believing my history. Had I not experienced it, I could not believe it myself.” He hoped that one day, after his life had been weighed in the balance, the Saints would know him better."
We have historical documents to know a lot more about Joseph's history and experiences than the church members had access to at the time. Of course we all have to make our own beliefs as to whether or not Joseph Smith was a prophet of God, but as we have details in these forty plus chapters, it is pretty clear if you focus on the historical evidence that he was not a prophet of God. There is a reason that many do not believe Joseph's history: the First Vision accounts changed greatly, the Book of Abraham has been proven false in just about every way possible, the Book of Mormon's belief that the Indians were the descendants of Lamanites has been blown up, Joseph Smith changed revelation to fit a changing theology, and his rationale for introducing polygamy doesn't hold up to Biblical standards or moral standards. And that doesn't even get into the problems with his translation of the Book of Mormon, plagiarism of his Joseph Smith Translation of the Bible, or use of Deutero-Isaiah in the Book of Mormon that wasn't available to Lehi when he left Jerusalem.
I know that's going off on a slight tangent, but it's important to note that this is not a one-issue problem for Joseph Smith: It is a pattern. Apologists like to divide and conquer each problem separately because it allows them to alternate between theories to suit their needs such as a loose vs tight translation theory, but when you put all of the issues together the answers become overwhelming.
After a faith promoting story based on a letter written by Ellen Douglas, Saints gets back to William Law. "That spring, Denison Harris and Robert Scott attended William Law’s secret meetings and reported what they learned to Joseph. By now, William saw himself as a church reformer. He still professed to believe in the Book of Mormon and Doctrine and Covenants, but he was furious about plural marriage and Joseph’s recent teachings about the nature of God."
Keep in mind that even at this point, many church members had no idea what Joseph Smith was doing regarding polygamy. A number of key members felt that Joseph Smith was a fallen prophet due to choices he made such as polygamy, the failed anti-bank, or the problems in Missouri.
"The following Sunday, Denison and Robert found men guarding the usual meeting place with muskets and bayonets. The two entered the house and quietly listened as the conspirators debated. Everyone agreed that Joseph had to die, but no one could settle on a plan."
I don't know if the "conspirators" truly believed that Joseph "had to die," but what I do know is that this source not documented until 1884 and does not contain any source information. Again, I don't know what happened at these meetings, but I do know that based on the changed made to many other events, it is difficult to put full trust in a narrative written about these events 40 years later.
We then hear the story of how Denison and Robert were tossed in a cellar and threatened with death for not conspiring to kill Joseph. "Before the meeting closed, Francis Higbee administered an oath of solidarity to each conspirator. One by one, the men and women in the room raised a Bible in their right hand and took the oath. When Denison and Robert’s turn came, they refused to step forward."
Again, this is all written 40 years later without any footnotes for me to check the chain of custody of these writings. One last section from this story: "Denison and Robert were taken down to the river by armed guards and released. “If you ever open your mouths,” the guards warned, “we will kill you by night or by day, wherever we find you."The young men left—and immediately reported back to Joseph and a bodyguard who was with him."
For a group of bloodthirsty conspirators, it sure seems odd that they would just let them walk away. One other note that is always lost in these stories is that Joseph Smith by this point was always surrounded by bodyguards. Obviously he had reason to do so since he was a target, but at this point Joseph Smith considered himself a general and often walked around in a general's outfit with bodyguards. Things got really crazy in these final years.
"Amid the turmoil of the spring, Joseph met regularly with the Council of Fifty to discuss the ideal attributes of a theocratic democracy and the laws and practices that governed it. At one meeting, shortly after the April conference, the council voted to receive Joseph as prophet, priest, and king."
We've discussed this before, but the Council of Fifty voted Joseph Smith to be the king of the world. Keep in mind at this point Joseph Smith already claimed to be a prophet, seer, revelator, general, mayor, and presidential candidate.
"Later that afternoon, Joseph noted that a few members of the council were not members of the church."
Of the fifty members, just three were not members of the church. While that is worth mentioning, it is certainly not a reason to think that the Council of Fifty was some sort of organization that sought to balance the church and outside world.
Next we are told about William Law's excommunication from the church, which made William upset because "no one had summoned them to defend themselves at the hearing." He appealed the decision and was rejected, leading William to publicly denounce Joseph Smith as a fallen prophet.
As this was happening, Thomas Sharp began increasing his criticism of Joseph Smith in his newspaper as well. All of this leads to William Law announcing on May 10, 1844 "their plans to publish the Nauvoo Expositor, a newspaper that would give, as they put it, “a full, candid, and succinct statement of facts, as they really exist in the city of Nauvoo.”"
We mentioned earlier that Joseph Smith was still practicing polygamy in secret, and this is a massive reason that the Nauvoo Expositor was such a problematic thing for Joseph. He even said in public just a few weeks later the following: "What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one." (History of the Church Vol. 6, p. 408-412)
The church calls this a "carefully worded denial" in the Gospel Topics essay, but I think it's pretty clearly an intentional lie by Joseph Smith. It would never pass their own definition of honesty, and I think that line makes it pretty clear just how secretive polygamy still was at this point.
After William Law published the Nauvoo Expositor, Joseph Smith convened the Nauvoo City Council to determine what to do. Remember that at this point Joseph Smith is the mayor of Nauvoo along with being referred to as General Smith. "Many of the Saints’ neighbors were already hostile to the church, and he worried that the Expositor would provoke them to violence. “It is not safe that such things should exist,” he said, “on account of the mob spirit which they tend to produce.”"
I would ask everyone reading this to check out the Nauvoo Expositor. The full text can be found here on FAIR. As you read the Nauvoo Expositor, you'll see that there's really no area that they are lying about the church or Joseph Smith, which makes the Nauvoo City Council's rush to shut them down all the more abhorrent.
"Joseph proposed declaring the newspaper a public nuisance and destroying the press that printed it," and they then began studying the state constitution to see if they could legally destroy a printing press and not violate the idea of a free press. "Joseph read aloud from the Illinois state constitution about freedom of the press so that all in the room understood the law. Retrieving a respected law book, another councilor read a legal justification for destroying a nuisance disturbing the peace of a community. With the legal reasoning set forth, Hyrum repeated Joseph’s proposal that they destroy the press and scatter the type."
"The council voted to destroy the press, and Joseph sent orders to the city marshal to carry out the measure."
"That evening, the Nauvoo marshal arrived at the Expositor office with about a hundred men. They broke into the shop with a sledgehammer, dragged the printing press into the street, and smashed it into pieces. They then dumped out drawers of type and set fire to the rubble. Any copies of the newspaper they could find were added to the blaze."
After Joseph Smith and his men destroyed the printing press, the chapter ends with Thomas Sharp reporting the destruction of the press in his newspaper. "“War and extermination is inevitable! Citizens arise, one and all!!!” he wrote. “We have no time for comment, every man will make his own. Let it be made with powder and ball!!!”"
Again, it is important that members read the actual Nauvoo Expositor, because the reality is that the paper was not making up accusations against the church. While it is understandable that Joseph Smith would be nervous about mobs forming against the church as they did in Missouri, in the case of the Nauvoo Expositor history backs up their accusations against Joseph Smith's teachings and practices.
If you're interested in hearing more about the Nauvoo Expositor, there are two great podcasts from Mormon Expressions on it, with panelists that include both an ex-Mormon and believing Mormon. You can find part one here and part two here. It's a great listen and they read through the main accusations one by one and discuss the truthfulness of each point.
Chapter Forty Four: A Lamb to the Slaughter
The destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor led to protests from neighboring areas, and mobs formed to "march on Nauvoo and annihilate the Saints." The source for that quote is the journal of Joseph Smith, so the phrase "annihilate the Saints" can be taken with a grain of salt, but the local towns were absolutely upset at Joseph Smith's decision to destroy freedom of the press to protect damaging church secrets, including polygamy that many in the church did not know about yet, from reaching the public at large.
Following the destruction of the printing press, a lot of stories flew through Nauvoo, including stories of attacks that never happened. It truly sounds like social media today after a tragedy, where there are all sorts of false rumors that get spread and incite further anxiety. This chapter discusses a "report claiming that a massive battle had taken place in Nauvoo, killing thousands" which never actually happened.
Saints spends a lot of time in this chapter focusing on the reaction to the destruction of the printing press, trying to paint those who were upset as out of control mobs. The reality is that Joseph Smith made a decision that went against everything this country was about then and is about now. And as we discussed in the last chapter, if you read the Nauvoo Expositor you will understand that it has been proven accurate with history. So Joseph Smith destroyed a printing press in order to hide what he was doing with polygamy, land deals, and teachings.
To that point, Saints makes sure to mention that William Law fled the town after the press was destroyed, but others stayed behind to threaten the church. "Francis Higbee charged Joseph and other members of the city council with inciting a riot when the press was destroyed. He swore that in ten days’ time there would not be a single Latter-day Saint left in Nauvoo."
This again is sourced from Joseph Smith's journal, which isn't to say it didn't happen, but to point out that this was Joseph writing down what others told him happened. It's a second hand account presented as a fact here, which Saints never does when it contradicts the correlated material of the church.
Saints continues: "On June 12, an officer from Carthage arrested Joseph and other members of the city council. Nauvoo’s municipal court found the charges baseless and released the men, angering Joseph’s critics even more."
One thing that angered and scared a lot of local communities around Nauvoo is that Joseph Smith ran everything. He was the prophet, the mayor, their general, and he effectively ran their legal system as he was voted "king" by the Council of Fifty. So of course his town's court finding him to not be at fault would anger his critics, because that's exactly what they were being critical about leading up to this incident.
As tensions continued to build, Joseph sought help from Governor Ford and asked the church members to stay calm. He then "mustered the Nauvoo Legion and put the city under martial law, suspending the usual rule of law and putting the military in charge." Keep in mind, again, that Joseph Smith was the general and in the last months would often walk the streets of Nauvoo in his general outfit.
Joseph Smith then addresses the members in full military outfit to proclaim that the mobs would be coming not just for him, but for every member's blood: "“It is thought by some that our enemies would be satisfied with my destruction,” he said, “but I tell you that as soon as they have shed my blood, they will thirst for the blood of every man in whose heart dwells a single spark of the spirit of the fullness of the gospel.”
Saints then sensationalizes the speech in the same manner they do in a negative light when crowds are against the church: "Drawing his sword and raising it to the sky, Joseph urged the men to defend the liberties that had been denied them in the past. “Will you all stand by me to the death,” Joseph asked, “and sustain, at the peril of your lives, the laws of our country?”
“Aye!” roared the crowd."
We then hear about the response from Governor Ford, which Saints claims describes as: "Governor Thomas Ford understood that the Saints had acted in good faith. There were legal grounds and precedents for declaring and destroying nuisances in a community. But he disagreed with the council’s decision and did not believe their actions could be justified."
I don't have access to every single piece of material, but I can not find anything that indicates that Governor Ford felt that Joseph Smith had acted in "good faith" with regards to destroying the Nauvoo Expositor. In fact, when you read the letter that Governor Ford sent, it is beyond clear that he thought that Joseph Smith abused his power and was absolutely in the wrong. You can read the full letter here.
Saints does concede the following quote from the letter, which can not possibly be reconciled with the idea that he felt the church acted in good faith: "I now express to you my opinion that your conduct in the destruction of the press was a very gross outrage upon the laws and the liberties of the people. It may have been full of libels, but this did not authorize you to destroy it."
Here are a few quotes that Saints does not include, which further show that Governor Ford did not feel that Joseph Smith acted in good faith and was clearly in the wrong for destroying the Nauvoo Expositor:
"There are many newspapers in this state which have been wrongfully abusing me for more than a year, and yet such is my regard for the liberty of the press and the rights of a free people in a republican government that I would shed the last drop of my blood to protect those presses from any illegal violence. You have violated the Constitution in at least four particulars."
"You have also violated the Constitution and your own charter in this: Your Council, which has no judicial powers, and can only pass ordinances of a general nature, have undertaken to pass judgment as a court and convict without a jury a press of being libelous and a nuisance to the city."
"You have also assumed to yourselves more power than you are entitled to in relation to writs of habeas under your charter. I know that you have been told by lawyers; for the purpose of gaining your favor that you have this power to any extent. In this they have deceived you for their own base purposes."
You get the idea. Joseph Smith is then directed by Ford to turn himself in for a legal trial, and that his refusal to do so could spark tensions into a full scale war, one which everyone is trying to avoid.
Joseph Smith knew that he could not give himself up for trial, so he ran with Hyrum, Willard Richards, and Porter Rockwell towards Iowa. Soon after arriving in Iowa, Emma sent letters to Joseph begging him to return as the city would be occupied until he turned himself in. "Hiram Kimball, Lorenzo, and Reynolds all called Joseph a coward for leaving Nauvoo and exposing the Saints to danger."
This is a detail to the credit of Saints that they include - I was never taught that Joseph Smith ran to Iowa and only returned after being called a coward until recently, and Saints includes it here as the details are more available which I want to point out since we look at all of the areas where they still are not being historically forthcoming.
Saints then has this line: “I will die before I will be called a coward,” Joseph said. “If my life is of no value to my friends, it is of none to myself.”
This is a somewhat famous line used to show what a great leader Joseph Smith was, but the citation is the History of the Church and it does not appear in there. FAIR attributes it to Emma Smith from 1856, which would be about twelve years after the event and from a meeting in Iowa that she was not a part of. Again, for a book that constantly ignores evidence, quotes, and stories that contradict the church's narrative, they freely use material that is second hand, reported decades later, or just uncorroborated.
Joseph and Hyrum returned and turned themselves in. They spend a lot of time with his conversations with Emma, which again paints a much more romantic, grand picture than the history gives us as she was tormented by polygamy for the final years of Joseph's life.
Saints then describes the crowds as they turned themselves in, almost in perfect opposition to how they describe the churches reaction to Joseph's call to arms speech earlier this chapter. Here the "troops whooped and yelled and threw their guns into the air" and "howling and swearing greeted the Smith brothers."
Again, I am not saying this did not happen, as I am sure given the tensions in the area due to the Nauvoo Expositor that crowds were there to protest Joseph Smith. My point is that this book calls itself "The Standard of Truth" and is written not as a history book, but as a narrative novel designed to elicit emotions in the readers.
We then have back and forth with the Illinois militia and Nauvoo along with Joseph Smith's time in Carthage Jail. We aren't going to cover it in too much depth because this chapter review has gone long already and this is a very emotional section, but want to point out a few things quickly.
Clearly these events are only given through the mindset of the church members who lived through them. You can see this in the following lines from Saints:
"Governor Ford arrived in Nauvoo later that day and addressed the Saints. He blamed them for the crisis and threatened to hold them responsible for its aftermath. “A great crime has been done by destroying the Expositor press and placing the city under martial law,” he stated. “A severe atonement must be made, so prepare your minds for the emergency.”"
"The speech offended the Saints, but since Joseph had asked them to preserve the peace, they pledged to heed the governor’s warning and sustain the laws of the state. Satisfied, the governor finished his speech and paraded his troops down Main Street. As the soldiers marched, they drew their swords and swung them menacingly.
Again, what Joseph Smith ordered was illegal and most LDS historians would argue just a really bad mistake. So it is not unreasonable for the Governor to blame the church for something they admitted to doing, and to tamper down the martial law that was implemented by Joseph.
Furthermore, if you are trying to calm down the tensions of Joseph Smith ordering, as general, martial law, you are not going to be bubbly and friendly. That's not to say it was justified to show swords as they walked down the street, but it should not be surprising that they would show their strength to keep the Mormon militia from rising up.
One thing that Saints does not mention is that Joseph Smith was drinking alcohol throughout his life in spite of the Word of Wisdom, and did so even in Carthage Jail. FAIR calls mentioning this "presentism," because at the time it was OK for members of the church to drink beer and mild alcohols, but that also makes me wonder why it was not mentioned in Saints. From John Taylor: "Sometime after dinner we sent for some wine. It has been reported by some that this was taken as a sacrament. It was no such thing; our spirits were generally dull and heavy, and it was sent for to revive us."
Again, it's not a huge thing, but I do feel that the Word of Wisdom was something that is a messy doctrine for the church due to how it changed over the years and how most early members did not even live by it as it is now required to attend the temple. In this case, it can not even be claimed that the wine was for the sacrament, but rather a method of unwinding.
Saints does discuss how Joseph had been smuggled in two guns, which were used to shoot at the attackers as they came up the stairs. This is an area for a while that was not taught, as it conflicts with the idea that Joseph Smith was a "lamb to the slaughter." Personally I have no problem here - if you know attackers might break in to harm you, then you should be able to try and defend yourselves. I just want to point out that Saints does cover this, because in some other accounts it is not mentioned.
This leads to Joseph's death, which is obviously a horrific account. I will also credit Saints for including Joseph's final words here, “O Lord, my God," because this has been a point of contention over the years. The Masonic call for help is "Oh Lord, my God. Is there no help for a widow's son?" which has led many to speculate he was calling for help from the window before he was shot. Due to Joseph having become very involved in Masonry (as the temple ceremonies are heavily based on), this has been a theory of many due to the exact wording heard by those who were there.
Even as someone who no longer believes the truth claims of the church, this is a difficult chapter to read. I don't believe Joseph Smith should have been killed for destroying the Nauvoo Expositor, although I do believe it was clearly illegal. And I believe that we would have learned so much more about where Joseph Smith was taking the church had he not been killed so young, along with some of the unfinished material he talked about such as the Book of Joseph (the scroll found with the Book of Abraham), which no church leader since has attempted to translate that we know of.
Chapter Forty Five: An Almighty Foundation
Following the death of Joseph Smith, this chapter begins with the people of Nauvoo hearing about what had happened. They tell of Emma learning from her nephew and Peter Rockwell riding through the streets "shouting the news of Joseph’s death."
Saints is written as a 'non-fiction narrative' so while it is supposed to stick to historical details, they also create the narrative in a way to convey the emotions they are looking to project to the readers. You can see this here as they discuss Lucy Mack Smith "pacing" and the devastation of the family upon processing the news. That's not to diminish what happened, but just explain that there's really nothing in this section to review as it is highly emotional and it's not really important to the fact checking of church claims that we are looking to do here.
As the bodies return to the Smith family, they discuss this famous story of Willard Richards: "Willard, meanwhile, had survived the assault with only a small wound on his earlobe, fulfilling a prophecy Joseph had made a year earlier that balls would fly around Willard, strike his friends on the right and left, but leave not a hole in his clothing."
Just as we will see with the transfiguration of Brigham Young later in this chapter, that "prophecy" from Joseph Smith was never recorded or spoken of until after the death of Willard Richards in 1854. Even in the source that Saints gives (History of the Church), it was not written until 1856 which was after Willard's death. From the Joseph Smith Papers: "This volume contains JS’s history from 1 May 1844 to the events following his 27 June 1844 death, and it was compiled in Utah Territory in 1856."
Again, it might be true that Joseph Smith made this prophecy, but it makes no sense that no one wrote it down or spoke of it immediately after the event in any of the papers or journals. We have so many records of Joseph Smith giving revelations to early church members and so many journals that discuss the things Joseph told them, yet nothing here. I mention this a lot about how Saints (and the church) uses thin sourcing to promote faith while ignoring those that prove the church's history/doctrines to be incorrect, but there is just as much contemporary evidence (more, actually) that Joseph Smith ordered the murder of Gov. Boggs as there is for this prophecy having happened.
Saints cites from the Lucy Mack Smith history here again as they did heavily at the beginning of the book. As Lucy recalls asking God why He took her sons early: “I have taken them to myself,” she heard a voice say, “that they might have rest.” I'm noting this here because it is used to paint a faith promoting picture of the event, but it just doesn't line up with any plans that Joseph had been proclaiming God had for him.
Following the funeral for Joseph and Hyrum, Saints highlights a lot of the confusion and panic that was reverberating through the church. This includes Brigham Young of whom they write: "His thoughts turned instantly to the priesthood. Joseph had held all the keys necessary to endow the Saints and seal them together for eternity. Without those keys, the work of the Lord could not move forward. For a moment, Brigham feared that Joseph had taken them to the grave.
Then, in a burst of revelation, Brigham remembered how Joseph had bestowed the keys on the Twelve Apostles. Bringing his hand down hard on his knee, he said, “The keys of the kingdom are right here with the church.”"
I feel like I'm beating a dead horse, but we just had Saints tell us how Joseph Smith told them he was passing the keys to them and off of himself. If that is the case, how could Brigham Young possibly believe this even for a second? Part of the problem with so many contradictions in the church's history is that it is hard to know if Brigham made this comment for dramatic effect or because he really didn't know if Joseph passed the 'keys' on.
Saints then turns to Emma and the problems Joseph left to her when he intermingled the church's finance with his family's: "Back in Nauvoo, as Emma mourned her husband, she began to worry about supporting her children and mother-in-law alone. Joseph had made extensive legal efforts to separate his family’s property from what belonged to the church, but he had still left behind considerable debts and no will. Unless the church quickly appointed a trustee-in-trust to replace Joseph as manager of the church’s property, Emma feared, her family would be left destitute."
This is a problem that many critics point to with Joseph Smith. Many apologists contend that Joseph went through all of these trials and "got nothing out of it," but the reality is that Joseph Smith got everything from the church. They gave him their life savings so he could build a mansion to live in, stores, temples, and even gave money to start the Kirtland Safety Society anti-bank that would fail soon after.
One of the changes to the revelations Joseph claimed to receive that we documented is that Joseph originally wrote that Emma Smith would be supported "from the church" in the Book of Commandments, but that was changed to "in the church." That change to revelation also added a disclaimer to Emma which stated "if thou art faithful and walk in the paths of virtue before me, I will preserve thy life, and thou shalt receive an inheritance in Zion."
But the problem is that it was difficult to separate church finances from the Smith's (or later church leaders as well - Brigham Young was incredibly wealthy as prophet), and because Joseph did not separate the two when he died it left Emma at the mercy of the men who would run the church.
Following Joseph's death was a power struggle over who should run the church. This is also interesting because since Joseph Smith's death the prophets have been chosen by men, typically by age, but at this time no one knew what to do since Joseph was the only one who claimed to talk to God in such a manner.
Emma Smith wanted William Marks to lead the church as he was the Nauvoo stake president who was also against polygamy and polyandry. The other leading men opposed Marks because they felt if polygamy was ended "our spiritual blessings will be destroyed." That's interesting to me since polygamy was removed long ago and yet no spiritual blessings are claimed to be destroyed. It's one of those areas where Saints is using a quote to promote faith in one area because they need to, but it really hurts other foundational parts of the church today.
During this time, Sidney Rigdon returns with the claim to lead the church based on a "vision from God showing him that the church needed a guardian—someone who would care for the church in Joseph’s absence and continue to speak for him." The other apostles did not believe in Sidney's vision because Sidney did not believe in polygamy. Saints adds: "More important, they knew that Joseph had depended less on Sidney in recent years and had not bestowed all the keys of the priesthood on him."
It is amazing how quickly Saints twists the knife into people when they need to, even someone like Sidney Rigdon who brought a lot of doctrines to the church including the Melchizedek and Aaronic priesthoods that were added into Joseph's revelation following Sidney's arrival. In this case, the phrase "history is written by the victors" really is illustrated as Rigdon is portrayed as pushy, out of touch, and power hungry.
Anyway, Rigdon calls for a meeting to assign a new trustee and leader and a compromise was made by William Marks to hold one four days later. As all of the apostles got together, Rigdon asked to postpone the meeting "until church leaders could come together and “warm up each other’s hearts.”" Rigdon still claimed the right to lead the church as "his recent vision had simply been a continuation of the grand vision of heaven he had seen with Joseph more than a decade earlier."
Again, look at how a vision from someone else is regarded in the church. Saints includes just this paragraph: "Sidney’s words did not impress Wilford. “It was a kind of second-class vision,” he noted in his journal."
This reminds me today of how the church teaches about personal revelation, but the moment a member has personal revelation that contradicts current church leaders, it is not to be trusted or believed.
Brigham Young responded to Sidney by saying “I do not care who leads the church, but one thing I must know, and that is what God says about it.” This quote was part of the same time-frame as Willard Richards' prophecy earlier, meaning it was written a decade later while Brigham Young was overseeing the church. It might have been said that way, but it must be remembered where the quote is from and who was in charge of this compilation.
Rigdon spoke to the crowd four days later but did not call for a vote. Brigham Young saw Rigdon spoke and grew uneasy, and called for an afternoon meeting to decide on a new leader.
This leads to Saints introducing Emily Hoyt for the purpose of introducing a faith promoting story that simply did not happen: the transfiguration of Brigham Young. Please read our write up of the event if you have not done so, because it is important here in the way Saints tries to introduce the story while leaving just enough wiggle room to say they weren't outright lying.
Saints continues: "As Emily listened to Brigham speak, she caught herself glancing up at him to make sure it was not Joseph speaking. He had Joseph’s expressions, his method of reasoning, and even the sound of his voice."
If you read our write-up you would know that there are NO contemporaneous accounts of this happening. None. Zero. We're told of huge crowds that gathered, coverage from newspapers, and even the journals of leaders at the event. And yet no one noticed this until many years later. In fact, the footnote to this quote in Saints shows no year written nor provides a link to the work itself, but if you do just a few quick Google searches you'll see this wasn't written until after 1856.
We then get snippets of Brigham's speech where he asks that the twelve be sustained as leading the church and not himself as prophet, which is another massive problem with the transfiguration story. There are five paragraphs between Emily claiming to see Joseph Smith in Brigham Young and this paragraph from Saints: "Seven years later, Emily recorded her experience of watching Brigham speak to the Saints, testifying how much he looked and sounded like Joseph on the stand. In the years to come, dozens of Saints would add their witness to hers, describing how they saw Joseph’s prophetic mantle fall on Brigham that day."
The reason no one began writing about the mantle fall on Brigham that day is because it did not happen. Look at Woodruff's journals - he wrote multiple pages about the event and never noticed it himself or from anyone else. It is so dishonest for the church to continue teaching this story when we can clearly show that it never happened and have done so.
This chapter ends with leadership positions being filled and focusing on finishing the temple. "Later that afternoon, Wilford and Phebe set out for England. Among the missionaries traveling with them were Dan Jones and his wife, Jane, who were headed to Wales to fulfill Joseph’s prophecy."
The prophecy from Dan Jones was as follows from Friend: "The Prophet then gave what would be his last recorded prophecy as he told Dan, “You will yet see Wales and fulfill the mission appointed you ere you die.”"
While it is faith promoting to call this a fulfillment of prophecy, it is really just fulfilling Joseph's request of him to go to Wales. It is similar to when the church calls a new temple being built in a new area a prophecy fulfilled, because a church leader told a country/city that if they are faithful a temple will be built. The reality, however, is that the church is able to fulfill that prophecy with a check to buy the land and construction.
This chapter is a tough one because of Joseph's death, but there are just so many areas where the church is being blatantly dishonest or deceptive. The transfiguration of Brigham Young simply did not happen - if it did you would have contemporaneous accounts of it everywhere, and yet there is not a single one for years. That the church is well aware of this fact yet continues to tell this story is all you need to know about the book that calls itself the "Standard of Truth."
Chapter Forty Six: Endowed With Power
Chapter 46 is the final chapter of Saints Volume 1, and it focuses on the church picking itself back up after Joseph's death. I don't want to go into too much detail here, but just point out a few things that I found noteworthy.
The chapter begins with the church really trying to find their footing after Joseph's death, with Brigham Young leading the way. They are working on the Nauvoo temple and asking members to give whatever they can in order to get it finished. Following this more uplifting intro, they get into more problems with the succession crisis. From Saints:
In September, Brigham and the Twelve learned that Sidney Rigdon was conspiring against them and denouncing Joseph as a fallen prophet. They charged him with apostasy, and Bishop Whitney and the high council excommunicated him. Sidney left Nauvoo soon after, predicting that the Saints would never complete the temple.
Saints is making some incredibly incomplete statements here in what is a very messy situation. First, Rigdon's "conspiracy" was based on Rigdon asking to be a guardian over the church and being voted down despite there only being 5 of the Quorum of the Twelve in Nauvoo. Because Rigdon claimed this was an improper vote, he was excommunicated a month later and fled Nauvoo under perceived threats from Brigham Young and the danites.
The truth is that we just do not know where the truth is, but here is another example of Saints using only faith promoting sources and completely ignoring sources that go against the narrative. Rigdon did call Joseph Smith a fallen prophet as other early members did as Joseph secretly implemented polygamy, which Joseph had introduced in his final years as we've covered extensively. In fact, according to Brian Hales, one of the go to experts by the church about polygamy, Joseph proposed to Sidney's daughter Nancy in a secret meeting in 1841. You can read more about that incident on Hales' website, but it is not surprising that Saints does not want to put any of that information out there for members to see.
One final point on this section about Rigdon: the note about his failed prophecy on the Nauvoo was written in December 1868. That isn't to say that Rigdon did not make that prediction, but if you want to pull out quotes from 24 years later that opens the door to a lot of sources that the church desperately wants to avoid talking about. I've found it very funny how often the church will pull sources from decades later when it suits them but ignore even contemporary documents when they exposure the problems with the church's truth claims.
Saints then briefly mentions that Emma Smith was stuck relying on the church to take care of her, and what they don't mention is that Brigham Young hated her. He accused Emma of trying to poison Joseph -- this is from the 1866 general conference:
"To my certain knowledge, Emma Smith is one of the damnedest liars I know of on this earth; yet there is no good thing I would refuse to do for her, if she would only be a righteous woman; but she will continue in her wickedness. Not six months before the death of Joseph, he called his wife Emma into a secret council, and there he told her the truth, and called upon her to deny it if she could. He told her that the judgments of God would come upon her forthwith if she did not repent. He told her of the time she undertook to poison him, and he told her that she was a child of hell, and literally the most wicked woman on this earth, that there was not one more wicked than she. He told here where she got the poison, and how she put it in a cup of coffee; said he 'You got that poison from so and so, and I drank it, but you could not kill me.' When it entered his stomach he went to the door and threw it off. he spoke to her in that council in a very severe manner, and she never said one word in reply. I have witnesses of this scene all around, who can testify that I am now telling the truth. Twice she undertook to kill him." (Brigham Young, 6-8 Oct 1866, 36th Semi-Annual Conference)
Emma hated polygamy was constantly deceived by her husband. There is no getting around it, and her resistance to polygamy angered those in charge of the church. It's really sad to think of the life that Emma Smith had to leave because of the church and Joseph's troubles with both the law and polygamy, but it's really frustrating to see the church whitewash the sacrifices she made and the anguish she had to live with.
After the one paragraph about Emma, they discussed what happened to Joseph's 33+ wives: "After his death, some of them returned to their families. Others married members of the Twelve, who covenanted to care and provide for them in Joseph’s absence." This is a mess for a number of reasons, but if you want a really good example of just how ugly polygamy was, please check out the story of Zina Huntington Jacobs Young Smith on the Year of Polygamy podcast series. It is insane, and poor Henry Jacobs for having his wife taken from him twice by Mormon prophets. The podcast linked is not from an anti-Mormon source and is only about 30 minutes long, but details just how messy polygamy (and polyandry) was -- I highly recommend it.
Now the focus shifts to the pressure coming from outside forces -- the church was under political fire from Illinois and "by the end of January 1845, the legislature stripped the Saints living in Nauvoo of their right to make and enforce laws and disbanded the Nauvoo Legion as well as the local police force."
This leads to the church looking at options to move from Nauvoo, and Saints focuses on Lewis Dana, the "first American Indian to join the Council of Fifty." They continued with the following about Dana: "A member of the Oneida nation, Lewis had been baptized with his family in 1840. He had served several missions, including one to the Indian territory west of the United States, and had ventured as far away as the Rocky Mountains."
What is noteworthy here is that before DNA testing proved Native Americans to be from Asia, the church would call Dana a Lamanite just as Joseph Smith claimed God did in revelations telling people to preach to the Lamanites. In fact, when the church talks about Joseph Smith receiving the polygamy revelation as early as 1831, they are actually referring to Joseph Smith telling WW Phelps and a few others to take on "wives of the Lamanites and Nephites, that their posterity may become white, delightsome and just.”
More to the point here, DNA studies have shown that the Native Americans were from Asia, which means they could not be the Book of Mormon people as church leaders had proclaimed for well over 150 years. You can read our annotated LDS essay on DNA studies, as it details just how damning that is and why the church here is so careful to not reference Lamanites in these paragraphs.
The church then sends Dana and others to scout for new lands while the temple is completed, and they spend some time discussing the plans to move west and reveal the plan to the church. They continue to finish the temple, and Saints notes this about some changes Brigham made to baptisms for the dead:
Under the Lord’s direction, Brigham instructed that men should no longer be baptized for women nor women for men.
“Joseph in his lifetime did not receive everything connected with the doctrine of redemption,” Brigham had taught the Saints earlier that year, “but he has left the key with those who understand how to obtain and teach to this great people all that is necessary for their salvation and exaltation in the celestial kingdom of our God.”
The change to the ordinance showed how the Lord continued to reveal His will to His people. “The Lord has led this people all the while in this way,” Brigham declared, “by giving them here a little and there a little. Thus He increases their wisdom, and he that receives a little and is thankful for that shall receive more and more and more.”
It is funny that Saints references Brigham Young's 'revelation' here, yet neglects the other things that Brigham claimed were from God that have been since disavowed such as Adam being our God, that blacks were cursed by God and thus should be denied the priesthood, blood atonement, or that "The only men who become Gods, even the Sons of God, are those who enter into polygamy."
Once again Saints wants to have it both ways - that revelation continues to this day, but all of the misses are to be ignored as the prophets were merely speaking as men. This wouldn't be such a problem if the church was more upfront about their bias, but if you want to call a book "The Standard of Truth" it comes with the direct implication that they aren't hiding anything that might harm the testimonies of those reading the book.
The final paragraphs of Saints are about the Nauvoo temple being finished and ordinances performed. It discusses families being sealed together before the journey westward, and how the temple remained open a few days longer than anticipated as members refused to leave without receiving their endowment.
We're not going to comment on the temple ceremony because posting the details of the ceremony that are meant to be a secret is something I don't want to do, but it mirrors the Masonic ceremony Joseph had received just weeks before he introduced it. My experience in the temple was what started me out of the church mentally because I had no idea what I was getting into and it was very strange and disturbing to me. I can only imagine what it was like with the penalties and oath of vengeance included, and the idea that the endowment provides any "power" as the chapter insists is not based on anything tangible outside of elevation emotion that is often felt when bearing your testimony or feeling the spirit listening to a church talk or uplifting story on the news.
Since the chapter is called "Endowed With Power," it would be nice if the church could provide citations to show that this power leads to increased healing rates from wounds or sickness, actual miracles like in the Bible, etc. The fact that the church has moved from "having the faith to be healed" to "having the faith not to be healed" (Elder Bednar) is truly telling about what the power of the endowment actually provides. I'm not trying to be harsh, but this is a baseless claim that is used by missionaries to bring people into the church (such as myself decades ago) and I take offense at the fact that the stories I was told about the protective garments I was required to wear every day are now downplayed, that we need the faith to not be healed, and that as evidence piles up against the church's truth claims, there is nothing they can point to that shows there is any power to the priesthood or endowment. Sorry, small side rant over.
Saints ends with the church leaving Nauvoo, briefly touching on a few of the familiar names of the book. They mention that Emma stays behind because she did not believe in polygamy, but makes sure to note that she never lost her testimony. Saints even mentions how Brigham Young takes on Emily Partridge for a wife after Joseph's death and has a child with her quickly. Under the doctrine of D&C 132, that child would be sealed to Joseph Smith, which is one of the many problems with polygamy and polyandry.
And thus ends Volume 1 of Saints. I hope you've gotten something out of the chapter-by-chapter review that took a very long time to finish. I hope at some point to add a few things into the previous chapters that I missed while doing it the first time, as well as a blog post about what the experience of doing this type of review was like since it left me with a few takeaways about how the church produced this book as well as how they marketed it to members.
Thank you again for reading Saints with us, and please follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more updates, news, and conversations!