Prophets and Polygamy
Polygamy or plural marriage, which is also referred to as the new and everlasting covenant of marriage in the Doctrine and Covenants, is one of those topics that those within The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, colloquially known as Mormons, typically try to avoid at all costs and those without the Church who are antagonistic or critical of the Church seemingly never cease to talk about. I think it would be a fair statement so say that neither group, those trying to defend the Church or those trying to attack the Church, represents the topic with complete honesty.
Those within the Church try to down play the practice of polygamy as something that only a few did that had little impact on the Church, and of course, some members deny polygamy altogether or simply refuse to talk about it. On the other hand, some of those outside of the Church try to say that the Church is still polygamous, which is not exactly true.
The short version is that the LDS Church once practiced polygamy and taught it as doctrine but due to anti-polygamy and anti-bigamy laws that criminalized the practice, and due to pressure from the US Government and the arrest of Church leaders and seizure of Church property, the Prophet and president of the Church Wilford Woodruff wrote a manifesto to the Church on plural marriage.
The manifesto by President Woodruff was canonized as Official Declaration 1 and is part of the Doctrine and Covenants (D&C), and a while later another manifesto on polygamy was published and canonized as Official Declaration 2, also in the D&C. The official declarations state that the Church will follow the law of the land and that they only recognize monogamy as proper marriage. Of course, after the manifesto there were still some members of the Church who practiced polygamy.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints still holds polygamy as official doctrine and an eternal principle but no longer practice it. Because they believe it is an eternal principle, the Church believes that there will be a plurality of wives in the afterlife and if a man’s wife dies he is allowed to be sealed to another woman and it is believed that in the afterlife both women will be his wives. It is also believed that those faithful members of the Church who were sealed to multiple wives in the past are with all of their wives in heaven now.
It is common to hear about LDS splinter groups such as The Fundamentalist Latter Day Saints or FLDS who openly practice polygamy, but those groups are not actually part of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. When the Church came out against plural marriages in response to being forced to follow the laws of the land there were some people who firmly believed in the practice and thought that those who bowed down to the law of the land, as they saw it, instead of what they considered the law of God were the apostates, though if you ask any in the mainstream Church they will say that the splinter groups are the apostates.
The Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, now The Community of Christ, has never practiced plural marriages and they split off from the main Church when Joseph Smith died and Brigham Young took over. Emma Smith, Joseph’s first and only legitimate wife, at least according to the law, remained in Nauvoo, Illinois instead of going west with the rest of the Church and her son later became the leader of the RLDS movement.
Emma Smith loathed the practice of plural marriage and it was a never ending irritant to her when Joseph was alive. Despite the overwhelming evidence that he had many plural wives, after his untimely death while in prison, Emma vehemently denied that her husband, Joseph Smith, ever had anything to do with plural marriages and claimed that the practice originated with Brigham Young and those loyal to him.
Some of the many sources that talk about the Emma’s difficulty with plural marriage are the journals of those who knew her in life, including Joseph Smith’s diary, various editions of the history of the Church, the command for Emma to accept the principle that is recorded in D&C 132, and many books on the life of Emma Smith and other early Mormons. There is, as I said, overwhelming evidence both that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy and that was bothered by it.
It has always bothered me that there would be a revelation given through Joseph Smith that Emma, his wife, had to listen to and obey him and allow him to have more wives or else be destroyed. Such a revelation has always seamed a bit too self-serving. Of course, when I was an active member of the Church I felt I was sinning by questioning Joseph Smith’s motives or his claimed revelations, regardless of my personal feelings on the issue or issues.
I joined the LDS Church when I was in my early twenties and, for a considerable while, I was completely convinced that the LDS Church was God’s kingdom on earth and that everything they taught was the will of God, and I lived my life accordingly. After I was in the Church for a while I started coming across things that bothered me and I felt like I was sinning for allowing myself to doubt. However, despite being urged by leaders to just trust that the Church was always right and let the matter drop, I started doing research to try and find the truth of the matter, thinking it would grow my faith. When I learned the truth about the Church it was not what I though it would be and I saw it for what it is, a con started by Joseph Smith and perpetuated by his successors.
One of the things I have always had issues with from the time I first learned of it was the doctrine of polygamy, and at the time I joined the the Church most members, including a lot of leaders, denied that Joseph Smith ever participate in polygamy, though I am not sure why since it was Joseph Smith that gave the revelation in the first place.
When I was an active member of the Church I was taught that polygamy was an eternal principle that had been handed down from God and, though I had my own personal issues with the principle, I did my best to believe it. I was taught that the practice of plural marriage was only temporarily taken off the earth to appease the government but that it would be brought back in the end times and that it was practiced in heaven. I have never wanted to have more than one wife and the thought of having more than one wife was both terrifying and repulsive to me.
The Church teaches, both officially and culturally, that the practice of plural marriages will be in heaven, and the doctrine is canonized in Doctrine and Covenants section 132. The Church, as of yet, has refused to make an official statement on whether or not plural marriage will ever be practiced on earth again in the end times, but many member firmly believe that it will be and that has often been a topic of discussion among faithful members that I know.
The original printing of the Doctrine and Covenants had a section that said monogamy was the rule of the Church, but it was removed during Brigham Young’s reign. In the original 1835 printing of the Doctrine and Covenants what was then section 101 said, “Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again,” (1).
Of course, even when that version of Doctrine and Covenants was printed Joseph had more than one wife as he married Fanny Alger early in 1833, two years before the printing. When the statement from D&C 101 was again printed in The Times and Seasons in October of 1842, along with a denouncement of plural marriage, Joseph Smith had several more plural wives that he kept secret while the Church was publicly declaring that it did not practice plural marriage. By the time of his death, Joseph Smith had at least 40 wives.
As mentioned, when I was active in the Church most members were adamant that Joseph Smith only ever had one wife but now they can no longer say that as the Church has officially admitted that Joseph Smith had many wives, including several that were under the age of eighteen at the time he married them, as well as a few who had living husbands at the time he married them, (2).
It is no secret that I am openly critical of the Church and that I am officially no longer a member of the Church, by my own choice, but I firmly believe that only truth, and verifiable truth at that, should be spoken about the Church and that lies or trumped up stories or charges do no one a service. With that in mind, I will do my best to represent the Church and its stance on polygamy and the facts of the practice in an honest manner, and I will provide links for all of my claims, most of which are from LDS sources.
Also, a side note, I know that the current president of the Church, Russell M. Nelson, insists on the Church being called by its full, official, name every time it is referenced, but I will not do so because it is tedious and because if Mormon and LDS was good enough for all of the Church leaders and members in the one hundred and eighty some years before Nelson took over than it is good enough now. I also remember listening to a talk by then president of the Church Gordon B. Hinkley in which he said he was proud to be called a Mormon. I don’t remember the name of the talk or when it was given, but it is not really important to today’s discussion, so if you are interested you can Google it.
As is evident from section 101 that was in the original D&C being removed and section 132 being added, it is apparent that the LDS Church’s canonized scripture has changed over the years in regards to the subject of polygamy and eternal marriage. Some LDS apologist, in an attempt to justify Church leaders, have even tried to change the meaning of words in scripture to mean things other than their dictionary definition, for which there no academically honest justification. One such change in definition, which is apparently approved by the Church since it is on their official website, is to say that the term virgin is not always to be understood in its literal definition, which is to never have had sex, and instead to mean, especially when convenient for apologetics, that the person is of unquestionable moral integrity, (3).
"The birth of the Saviour was as natural as are the births of our children; it was the result of natural action. He partook of flesh and blood—was begotten of his Father, as we were of our fathers," (Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 115).
Brigham Young also said, "Now, remember from this time forth, and for ever, that Jesus Christ was not begotten by the Holy Ghost," (Journal of Discourses, vol. 1, p. 51).
Not just with religious topics, but when we start changing the definitions of words to mean something other than their literal meaning, despite our motivation, even if it is meant to be ironic, we get into all sorts of problems and when words are not used to mean what they actually mean we can’t be sure that we are even having the same conversation as the person we are talking with.
Changing the definition of virgin thus leaves an opening for the doctrine by Brigham Young that Jesus was conceived and born in a natural manner (4) while still calling Mary a virgin. The change in definition also leaves an out for the apparent discrepancy in the LDS founding father, Joseph Smith, marrying older woman, widows, and women who had living husbands at the time he married them, and other women who were not virgins in the literal sense, despite the official revelation on plural marriage given in Doctrine and Covenants section 132 saying that all plural wives must be virgins. D&C 132 will be important to today’s discussion and we will return to it often and will quote portions of it as they become relevant.
There are so many discussion topics to cover in regards to polygamy that there is no way I can cover all of them in this post, and I may revisit the issue again at a later time, but today’s focus will be, at least in part, to determine if Joseph Smith and those who followed him were justified in the practice of polygamy, by Smith’s own doctrine, and whether or not Smith publicly admitted to polygamy during his lifetime. Just a quick reminder, The Book of Mormon says, “Wo unto the liar, for he shall be thrust down to hell,” (2 Nephi 9:34).
I will give a brief over view of the practice of polygamy within the LDS Church, which is by no means all inclusive, based on the available and relevant documentation I was able to find on this complex and often disputed subject, and make commentary on it. Ten years ago this discussion would not be possible to the extend that it is today because it was not until 2013 that the Church officially acknowledged that their founder, Joseph Smith, had ever married any women other than his first wife, Emma, when they started publishing their essay series on gospel topics. The Church, so far as I know, never officially denied the fact that Joseph Smith had more than one wife, they just never talked about it, and some members wrongly took the Church’s silence to indicate that it didn’t happen.
The doctrine of polygamy has, from its inception, been a source of trouble for the Church and was one of the primary reasons that their non-Mormon neighbors never liked them. Polygamy was referred to by the GOP convention in 1856 to be one of “those twin relics of barbarism,” (14).
The absolute first mention of plural marriage ever mentioned in the Church, so far as I can tell, is in the book of Jacob in The Book of Mormon, and it does not speak positively of the practice. The relevant section is Jacob 2: 22-35
And now I make an end of speaking unto you concerning this pride. And were it not that I must speak unto you concerning a grosser crime, my heart would rejoice exceedingly because of you.
But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.
For behold, I, the Lord, have seen the sorrow, and heard the mourning of the daughters of my people in the land of Jerusalem, yea, and in all the lands of my people, because of the wickedness and abominations of their husbands.
And I will not suffer, saith the Lord of Hosts, that the cries of the fair daughters of this people, which I have led out of the land of Jerusalem, shall come up unto me against the men of my people, saith the Lord of Hosts.
For they shall not lead away captive the daughters of my people because of their tenderness, save I shall visit them with a sore curse, even unto destruction; for they shall not commit whoredoms, like unto them of old, saith the Lord of Hosts.
And now behold, my brethren, ye know that these commandments were given to our father, Lehi; wherefore, ye have known them before; and ye have come unto great condemnation; for ye have done these things which ye ought not to have done.
Behold, ye have done greater iniquities than the Lamanites, our brethren. Ye have broken the hearts of your tender wives, and lost the confidence of your children, because of your bad examples before them; and the sobbings of their hearts ascend up to God against you. And because of the strictness of the word of God, which cometh down against you, many hearts died, pierced with deep wounds.
Jacob says that the people were not to justify themselves in taking on more than one wife by what David and Solomon did, and even said that their having many wives and concubines was an abomination, which means that they were not commanded or justified to do so by God, according to The Book of Mormon. I will concede, however, that Jacob 2:30 does give one justification for polygamy, and that is if God commands it so that he can raise righteous seed up to himself, but this verse does not say that David or Solomon were justified, nor does that verse change the fact that The Book of Mormon says that David and Solomon having more than one wife was an abomination.
The very first verse in D&C 132 contradicts what The Book of Mormon says about David and Solomon’s practice of having more than one wife. “Verily, thus saith the Lord unto you my servant Joseph, that inasmuch as you have inquired of my hand to know and understand wherein I, the Lord, justified my servants Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as also Moses, David and Solomon, my servants, as touching the principle and doctrine of their having many wives and concubines.”
The above doctrinal disagreement between The Book of Mormon and later canonized scripture is one of the things that I pointed out in a previous series I did about The Book of Mormon, and while it is not the topic of today’s discussion, if you are interested I pointed out many more discrepancies in that series.
The first plural marriage in the LDS Church was when Joseph Smith married Fanny Alger, who was only sixteen years of age at the time of the marriage in 1833. Fanny was not Joseph’s youngest wife as at least two of his plural wives were only fourteen at the time of the marriage, Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Heber C. Kimball, and Nancy Mariah Winchester.
There are a lot of people who get caught up on the ages of some of Joseph Smith’s wives and makes the claim that he was a pedophile and targeted young women, but I am not taking that route and all available evidence suggests that Joseph was just as likely to marry older women, even those who were already married, as he was to marry teenagers. Some of Joseph’s wives were considerably older than he was as well.
Also, while I am not justifying a man in his thirties marrying a teenage girl, the culture was completely different in the 1800s and it was not unheard of or considered inappropriate for a teenage girls to get married to an older man. Joseph Smith, or Mormons in general, were not the only ones to have large age gaps between the men and women in a marriage, however, the average age difference between men and women at the time of marriage was 4 to 5 years (5).
Joseph Smith, so far as we know, never had any children with Fanny Alger, but we will never know if that is because she left him and married another man with whom she did have children with or because Joseph did not have sexual relations with any of his wives other than Emma, as many would be apologist claim. However, there is some evidence contemporary to Joseph Smith that claims Smith had sexual relations with at least some of his plural wives, if not all of them, including personal journals and other writings and testimony given in the Temple Lot Case.
If Joseph Smith never had any children with any of his wives, or at least never tried to do do so, than, according to Jacob and D&C 132:63, he was not justified in having more than one wife since the stated purpose for which God sometimes justifies plural marriages is to raise up righteous seed. Basically what I am saying is that, according to The Book of Mormon and the D&C, either Joseph Smith was actually having sexual relations with all of his wives, trying to have children, or else he was not justified in having more than one wife.
I am not sure why faithful members of the Church are so against admitting that Smith had sexual relations with his wives since the scriptures they adhere to says that plural marriage is to raise righteous seed, and since, with the exception of the women who were vowed to another man, the passage in D&C says that he could not commit adultery with those who were married to him and no other man.
The claim that Joseph Smith didn’t have sexual relations with his plural wives doesn’t make sense, and probably isn’t true, and if you are honest you will admit as much. At this point, no one has definitively proved that Joseph Smith had any children with any of his wives other than Emma, but there is some compelling evidence that he did have sexual relationships with them, even if it didn’t lead to children. Also, just because we have not found proof that Joseph Smith had children with his other wives does not necessarily mean that he didn’t.
Available evidence suggests that Joseph Smith was married to some women for time and eternity, meaning that he was, in all sense of the word, their husband on this earth, and some he was only married to for eternity, meaning that he wasn’t truly their husband on earth but would be their husband in the eternities, (6).
However, if we are to go by the dates we have from Church history and other sources, there is no way that Joseph Smith was sealed to Fanny Alger at all because he married her in 1833 and was not even given the keys to seal by Elijah until the 3rd of May, 1836 (D&C 110), was not commanded to build a temple until the 1st of January, 1841 (D&C 124), and I was not able to find any evidence that the principle of eternal marriage was taught or performed before the saints moved to Nauvoo. Eternal marriage was not really taught until 1843 (7), and by that point Fanny had already left Joseph and married Solomon Custer, who was not a member of the Church and never became one, on the 16th of November, 1836, only three years after her marriage to Joseph, (8).
Since plural marriage was not legal and there was no way the state would have recognized the marriage as legitimate or binding, Fanny didn’t have to divorce Joseph before she married Solomon. So far as the states and the federal government was concerned, since Joseph was already married he could not legally marry Fanny, or anyone else. Of course, there were a lot of people contemporary to Joseph Smith who didn’t even believe he was ever married to Fanny and viewed it as nothing more than a sexual indiscretion that he tried to justify by saying they were married.
According to the official revelation on plural and eternal marriage given in D&C 132, all plural wives must be virgins and not vowed to any other man, but there were a number of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages that did not fit in this definition. The relevant verse, 61, says, “And again, as pertaining to the law of the priesthood—if any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another, and the first give her consent, and if he espouse the second, and they are virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one else.”
Most people who are familiar with the Church, and all those who are faithful members, are well acquainted with the fact that Joseph Smith sent the apostle Orson Hyde on a mission to dedicate the Holy Land, but the part of the story that relatively few are familiar with is that when Orson was on his mission Joseph married Orson’s wife, Marina, as his tenth plural wife. Marinda Hyde was absolutely positively vowed to another man.
Even if what some LDS apologist say is true that Joseph never had sexual relations with Marinda Hyde and only married her for eternity it would still not be fair to Orson who, by all standards, was considered worthy and in good standing with the Church at that time and should have been given the opportunity to be sealed to his own wife.
There are conflicting accounts on whether or not Hyde knew that Smith had married his wife so we may never know if Hyde knew or approved of the actions or if Smith sent him on a mission and stabbed him in the back while he was gone, but according to John D. Lee Orson Hyde knew about it and gave permission.
However, the apologist who use Lee’s statement on Smith having permission to marry Hyde’s wife praise his statement on the matter as the gospel with one breath, and with the next deride him as the devil incarnate and the most untruthful person on earth when it comes to his account of the Mountain Meadows Massacre, his account of the Danites, his statement that a great deal of the Missouri hostility toward the saints was warranted by the actions of some of the saints, the vile and corrupt things Brigham Young did, or anything else he said that is critical of the Church.
Having read Lee’s life story and confession (Mormonism Unveiled), I believe Lee was an honest man, though be it deluded, and had no reason to lie. I believe what Lee said about Brigham Young and the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and I also believe his story that Orson Hyde gave Smith his permission to be sealed to his wife.
Not only are some of Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships contrary to the Doctrine and Covenants, many of them went against things the Bible specifically forbids. The Bible says states a man cannot marry a woman and her sister (Leviticus 20:14), yet Joseph Smith married several sets of sisters, the Huntington sisters, the Partridge sisters, the Johnson sisters and the Lawrence sisters. The Bible also forbids a man from marrying a woman and her daughter (Leviticus 18:17-18), and Joseph Smith married Patty Bartlett Sessions and Sylvia Sessions Lyon, mother and daughter. According to the Bible, even if some of Smith’s plural marriages could be justified, his marriages to both mother and daughter and to sisters was in open rebellion against the Bible and thus immoral.
Apologist often say the justification for plural marriage was the shortage of men, but that falls flat when you consider the women who Joseph and others married while they were married to other men who were still alive (2), (9). Also, during the time when plural marriage was in its height in the Church there were generally more men than women in America, and the farther west one would go the greater the discrepancy and the fewer women there were, as you can see from the map below. It is of interest that some of the areas with the smallest concentration of women were also where the Church was located.
A counter argument that many apologist use is that after the persecution and the Missouri Mormon War there were more women than men and there were a lot of widows who had to be taken care of, but the evidence does not support that (10) and most of the deaths in the Church during that period was due to the inclement weather during their exodus, and the weather did not differentiate between the sexes.
Since the LDS Church officially admits to Joseph Smith’s polygamous relationships there is no reason to argue that point, so I will move on to whether or not Smith lied about the practice of polygamy. As already established, the original printing of the Doctrine and Covenants has as section 101 a statement on marriage (1) in which it said that the Church holds that marriage is to be between one man and one woman and that monogamy is the rule of the Church. By 1835 Smith already had more than one wife, and the Church continued to teach section 101 as doctrine, despite the private doctrine among the elite of plural marriage. Joseph Smith also repeated the statement from Doctrine and Covenants on marriage in Times and Seasons, vol. 3, p. 939 (1842) to deny all allegations that polygamy was being practice.
Two years later it was printed in Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 423 (1844) that Hiram Brown was excommunicated for teaching plural marriage and other false doctrines, which says that the Church was publicly teaching that the doctrine of plural marriage was false doctrine, and at this time Smith had many wives as did most of those in the leadership of the Church.
“… some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood, may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrine, for there is no such doctrine taught here; neither is there any such thing practiced here.” Times and Seasons, vol. 5, p. 474 (March, 1844)
Hyrum Smith never printed anything in the Church’s official paper without the knowledge and consent of his brother, the prophet Joseph.
It was impossible for Joseph Smith and those who were loyal to him to completely keep the issue of polygamy under wraps, and from time to time he was confronted about it, and on one such occasion he said, "...What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one. I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers." (History of the Church, vol 6, p. 411) Joseph Smith made this statement preaching from the stand to the Latter-day Saints in Nauvoo on Sunday May 26, 1844. At the time he had secretly taken at over 25 plural wives.
If you pay careful attention to the wording, Smith was not just denying the charges of adultery, which according to the doctrine of the Church he would not have been guilty of if he was married to the women, but he was also denying having more than one wife. Some would be apologist claim that Joseph Smith was telling the truth about not having more than one wife since, according to the laws of Illinois, he could only be legally married to one woman and therefore had only one wife, but it is clear that in his mind and according to his doctrine, he was married to all of those women so he was still lying. Besides, if he did not consider himself married to those women than the charge of adultery would have been true; either he was married to those women or else he was an adulterer.
As I briefly mentioned before, many of the women said that they had sexual relationships with Joseph Smith and several of them wrote about it or testified about it. In the book by Todd Compton. III, Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith it says, "Though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for this .... And in a significant number of marriages, there is evidence for sexual relations," (12).
Again, according to both The Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants, the only justification for polygamy or plural wives is to raise a righteous seed up to God, so if Joseph Smith’s marriages did not include a sexual dynamic than he was not justified because he could not have been even attempting to follow the rule of rising up a righteous seed.
Most of the hierarchy of the Church practiced polygamy, however, not all of the leaders of the Church were on board with the doctrine of plural marriage and William Law was viciously opposed to the doctrine, and as a result, he was excommunicated from the Church. In the book No Man Knows My History by Fawn M. Brodie it is claimed that part of William Laws dissatisfaction with Smith and the Church was that Joseph Smith tried to take his wife as yet another one of his plural wives.
After his excommunication, William Law and several other former members of the Church published The Nauvoo Expositor, which only ever had one issue because Joseph Smith and the rest of the Nauvoo City Council declared it a “public nuisance” and destroyed it, a crime for which Joseph Smith and many of his cohorts were arrested, which led to Joseph Smith’s death. You could accurately say that polygamy was the largest contributor to the death of Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum.
The paper that ultimately led to the death of Joseph Smith. Many papers had previously accused Smith of may things, but he had not control over them, but since this paper was printed in the city he ruled he thought it was within his right to destroy it.
In the first and only issue of the Nauvoo Expositor it claimed that The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day-Saints taught the false doctrine of there being many gods and the practice of polygamy. The writers of the paper also accused Joseph Smith of being a monarch and they vowed to oppose every attempt to unite church and state. So, an honest evaluation of both the paper and the facts of the situation and the doctrine of the Church would lead to the conclusion that the paper was truthful.
Anyone who is honest would have to admit that even though, on paper, Joseph Smith was not a monarch and that people in the city of Nauvoo could oppose him if they wished to do so, since they all believed him to be the prophet of God they dared not oppose him as they all believed that when Joseph said something it was the same as if God himself had said it. Anyone who says that Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, or Brigham Young in Utah, did not have ultimate power over the inhabitants is either ill informed or lying, there are no other options.
Even in the Church today it is believed that everyone has the right to vote for or against the leadership of the Church and their decisions, but in practice the only option one ever has is to vote the way the leaders want them to vote. When I was active in the Church a man in my stake whom I went to General Conference with voted against sustaining a specific member of the Church when it was proposed and when he returned home the stake president excommunicated him. Basically the vote is only ceremonial and the leaders make all the rules; there is no democracy of any sort in the Church today or historically, and since Smith ruled Nauvoo and Young ruled Utah there was no democracy there either.
The evidence is both adequate and compelling that Joseph Smith had many wives, many of which were in violation of all scripture, had sex with them, and lied to the general Church population and the law about it. I am also convinced that many of the women who married Joseph Smith and many of the Women who married Brigham Young and the other leaders only did so because they felt they had no other option since they were told it was the will of God and that their salvation depended on it.
I agree with the 1856 GOP convention that polygamy and slavery are twin relics of barbarism, and neither one are the will of God.
Brigham Young Journal of Discourses, v. 8, p. 115