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The Many Wives of Joseph Smith

The Church kept this information obscure until recently, and there is much speculation on why Joseph Smith married all of the 30+ women, some still married to other men, and if the marriages were ever "consumated."  Here's what we know...

  1. The First 6 Prophets were all polygamists, and all of them married teen brides, except for John Taylor. All 6 of the first church leaders were polygamists, and all married teenagers except for Johm Taylor, who married a 26 year old at age 78.  See the graphic below.
  2. Polygamy grew quickly. When Joseph Died, in June 1844, 29 men and 50 women were polygamists in addition to Josephs 30+ wives.  By 1847, at least 196 men, and 521 women had become polygamists. This growh rate is almost 100% each year. Source LDS.org
  3. A list of the women of Joseph Smith- Click here for a list of Joseph Smiths wives.
  4. Spiritual Wifery.  Proponents of "Spiritual Wifery" taught that sexual relations were permissible outside of legalized marital relationships, on condition that the relations remained secret.  Joseph Smith, journal, May 19,24,26; June 4, 1842. Avaiable at JosephSmithPapers.org
  5. The Book of Mormon teaches against polygamy- Surprisingly, the Book of Mormon teaches against polygamy (Jacob 2:27-30).  Sidney Rigdon, who never participated in polygamy, is thought to have written some parts of the Book of Mormon, and likely these passages.  This would explain Joseph's disregard for this doctrine.
  6. Joseph received a revelation in D&C: 132 restoring plural marriage and explaining it's sole purpose is to begat children (consumate the marriage). The explanation given for plural marriage is to provide offspring. 
  7. Fanny Alger, age 16 is the first reported "additional wife" of Joseph - Fanny Alger was a teenage servant in the Joseph Smith household.  Emma caught Joseph having an "exchange" with her in the barn.  Oliver Cowdrey called the sitaution a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger's" and was excommunicated for accusing Joseph of adultury.  Joseph later married Fanny.

    Warren Parrish, the secretary of Joseph for a period of time, told Benjamin Johnson that he and Oliver Cowdery knew the report of an affair between Joseph and the girl to be true, for they "were spied upon and found together." (Letter from Benjamin Johnson to George Gibbs, 1903.)

    Regardless of whether Joseph Smith's relations with Fanny Alger was merely a sexual encounter or a "marriage," it was adulterous. However, Joseph could only be legally married to one person, and even if it is claimed that the "marriage" was a symbolic "celestial only" sealing, the sealing power was not restored until April 1836, after Joseph's "marriage" to Fanny.
  8. Faithful Mormon Melissa Lott (Smith Willes) testified that she had been Joseph's wife "in very deed." (Affidavit of Melissa Willes, 3 Aug. 1893, Temple Lot case, 98, 105; Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 156.)  
  9. In a court affidavit, faithful Mormon Joseph Noble wrote that Joseph told him he had spent the night with Louisa Beaman. (Temple Lot Case, 427)
  10. Emily D. Partridge (Smith Young) said she "roomed" with Joseph the night following her marriage to him and said that she had "carnal intercourse" with him. (Temple Lot case (complete transcript), 364, 367, 384; see Foster, Religion and Sexuality, 15.) 
  11. Joseph Smith's personal secretary records that on May 22nd, 1843, Smith's first wife Emma found Joseph and Eliza Partridge secluded in an upstairs bedroom at the Smith home. Emma was devastated. William Clayton's journal entry for 23 May (see Smith, 105-106) 
  12. Smith's secretary William Clayton also recorded a visit to young Almera Johnson on May 16, 1843: "Prest. Joseph and I went to B[enjamin] F. Johnsons to sleep." Johnson himself later noted that on this visit Smith stayed with Almera "as man and wife" and "occupied the same room and bed with my sister, that the previous month he had occupied with the daughter of the late Bishop Partridge as his wife." Almera Johnson also confirmed her secret marriage to Joseph Smith: "I lived with the prophet Joseph as his wife and he visited me at the home of my brother Benjamin F." (Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 44. See also "The Origin of Plural Marriage, Joseph F. Smith, Jr., Deseret News Press, page 70-71.) Drawn Sword 
  13. Faithful Mormon and Stake President Angus Cannon told Joseph Smith's son: "Brother Heber C. Kimball, I am informed, asked [Eliza R. Snow] the question if she was not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith and afterwards to Brigham Young, when she replied in a private gathering, "I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than that."" (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.) 
  14. "Sylvia Sessions would have thought she could have had a daughter by Joseph if they had not had sex." Stake President Angus Cannon also testified: "I will now refer you to one case where it was said by the girl's grandmother that your father [Joseph Smith] has a daughter born of a plural wife. The girl's grandmother was Mother Sessions . . . She was the grand-daughter of Mother Sessions. That girl, I believe, is living today, in Bountiful, north of this city. I heard prest. Young, a short time before his death, refer to the report . . . The woman is now said to have a family of children, and I think she is still living." (Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview with Joseph III, 25-26, LDS archives.) 
  15. Faithful Mormon Prescindia D. Huntington, who was Normal Buell's wife and simultaneously a "plural wife" of the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that she did not know whether her husband Norman "or the Prophet was the father of her son, Oliver." And a glance at a photo of Oliver shows a strong resemblance to Emma Smith's boys. (Mary Ettie V. Smith, "Fifteen Years Among the Mormons", page 34; also Fawn Brodie "No Man Knows My History" pages 301-302, 437-39) 
  16. Sarah Ann Whitney "... the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty. ... Only be careful to escape observation, as much as possible, I know it is a heroick undertakeing; but so much the greater friendship, and the more Joy, when I see you I will tell you all my plans, I cannot write them on paper, burn this letter as soon as you read it; keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it. ... I close my letter, I think Emma wont come tonight if she dont, dont fail to come to night, I subscribe myself your most obedient, and affectionate, companion, and friend. Joseph Smith." -- Joseph Smith Handwritten Letter, More here 
  17. Emma was the 23th wife sealed to Joseph and hated polygamy.
  18. Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner seems to justify that she might have had a child by Joseph, and states that others of the wives could have had children as well. This is typically assumed to imply sex enough that her descendants have been tested for paternity. 
  19. Olive Frost's child who died at age 3 thought to be Josephs as well. 
  20. Hanna Ells was also cited as Joseph going into her house for sexual relations. 
  21. Maria Lawrence   “I am also able to testify that Emma Smith, the Prophet’s first wife, gave her consent to the marriage of at least four other girls [Emily and Eliza Partridge, Maria and Sarah Lawrence] to her husband, and that she was well aware that he associated with them as wives within the meaning of all the word implies.”   --Andrew Jenson, Historical Record 6:230. 
  22. Sarah Lawrence   "I do know that at his [Joseph Smith’s] Mansion home was living Maria and Sarah Lawrence and one of Cornelius P. Lott’s daughters as his plural wives with the full knowledge of his wife, Emma, of their married relations to him.” -- More Testimony,” Letter dated March 9th, 1904, Deseret Evening News, April 12, 1904. 

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Note: Much of this information comes from the research in Todd Compton's book In Sacred Lonliness.

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