Tag Archives: Brigham and Emma

All Wives Matter

I’ve recently been reading the autobiography of Parley P. Pratt. I know some of his descendants quite well. One, in particular, is a dear friend and is willing to go deep with me and to be “honest” about polygamy. He truly believes in the principle as one taught by Joseph Smith. He believes his grandfather was only doing as he was taught and commanded by Joseph.

Yet, as I have now read and analyzed the whole book, I have found NOTHING in Parley’s account that links the teaching of polygamy to Joseph Smith.

I was struck, I must say, by the many accounts Parley shares of healings and miracles and baptisms. He was truly a fierce and loyal force for good at the time of Joseph. He converted many! In fact, some could argue that he even neglected his first wife Thankful as he served mission after mission, leaving her home, unhealthy, childless, poor, and alone for years at a time.

But, no one could argue that there was any contemporary of Joseph who was more sincere and more faithful than he was. Parley was about Joseph’s age and was one of the original twelve apostles of the Church. He was killed on May 13, 1857 by Hector McLean, at the age of 50, for having taken McLean’s wife Eleanor from him. She was Pratt’s 11th wife.

I decided to read Pratt’s autobiography in part because I thought surely if anyone would be honest about polygamy and its origins, it would be him. If anyone would have first-hand information about Joseph teaching polygamy it would be him.

I was surprised that I did not get to the topic of polygamy until page 407. Although I should mention that there is a footnote on page 369. Footnote 20. This footnote references a paragraph from pages 361 and 362 where it says:

In Philadelphia I had the happiness of once more meeting with president Smith, and of spending several days with him and others, and with the Saints in that city and vicinity. During these interviews he taught me many great and glorious principles concerning God and the heavenly order of eternity. It was at this time that I received from him the first idea of eternal family organization, and the eternal union of the sexes in those inexpressibly endearing relationships which none but the highly intellectual, the refined and pure in heart, know how to prize, and which are at the very foundation of everything worthy to be called happiness. Til then I had learned to esteem kindred affections and sympathies as appertaining solely to this transitory state, as something from which the heart must be entirely weaned, in order to be fitted for its heavenly state. It was Joseph Smith who taught me how to prize the endearing relationships of father and mother, husband and wife; of brother and sister, son and daughter. It was from him that I learned that the wife of my bosom might be secured to me for time and all eternity; and that the refined sympathies and affections which endeared us to each other emanated from the fountain of divine eternal love. It was from him that I learned that we might cultivate these affections, and grow and increase in the same to all eternity; while the result of our endless union would be an offspring as numerous as the stars of heaven, or the sands of the sea shore. It was from him that I learned the true dignity and destiny of a son of God, clothed with an eternal priesthood, as the patriarch and sovereign of his countless offspring. It was from him that I learned that the highest dignity of womanhood was, to stand as a queen and priestess to her husband, and to reign for ever and ever as the queen mother of her numerous and still increasing offspring. I had loved before, but I knew not why. But now I loved — with a pureness and intensity of elevated, exalted feeling, which would lift my soul from the transitory things of this grovelling sphere and expand it as the ocean. I felt that God was my heavenly Father indeed; that Jesus was my brother, and that the wife of my bosom was an immortal, eternal companion; a kind of ministering angel, given to me as a comfort, and a crown of glory for ever and ever. In short, I could now love with the spirit and with the understanding also. (Autobiography of Parley P. Pratt, page 361-362.)

Notice, not a mention of polygamy. And this is in 1839 and 1840. The footnote, however, which was added by either Parley P. Pratt Jr. many years later, or more likely by Scot and Maurine Proctor, the most recent LDS editors, tells a very different story. They conclude that in the above paragraph:

Parley is referring to marriage for time and all eternity and to what would be later referred to as “the principle,” or plural marriage. As in all things in the gospel, Parley was obedient to this teaching. Less than three years later, he married the first of his ten plural wives. (Page 369)

Did you read the preceding paragraph on page 361 and 362 as the teaching of polygamy from Joseph Smith? I did not.

I am amazed that someone so close to the original source of this foundational eternal teaching is in need of 20th-century assistance in making sure the attributions and definitions are correct.

And so we go to page 407, footnote 9:

…We learn of Parley’s first plural marriage at this period from the family record: “Elizabeth Brotherton, daughter of Thomas and Sarah Brotherton, born March 27, 1816 in Machester, England, sealed to Parley P. Pratt for time and all eternity, June (then overwritten with July) 24, 1843. Done at the house of Brigham Young in Nauvoo, by the hand of Patriarch Hyrum Smith… (Pratt, Family Record, my emphasis added).

Why would the Family Record have written over the date of Parley P. Pratt’s first plural wife? Especially given that Parley’s own record in his autobiography that this footnote is created from says nothing of any marriage with anyone. In fact, it simply says:

My time, from arrival until the last of the year, was spent in the ministry, and in building, travelling, etc. (Page 406).

And yet, the footnote added over one hundred years later seems to want to establish the precise date of Parley’s first plural marriage although he himself, an ardent believer and later preacher of the polygamy, does not think it important to mention when he actually begins to practice the Celestial Law in his own autobiographical account. In fact, he was so busy in the ministry and in building and in traveling that he literally did not even have 30 minutes to return a letter:

Although it may seem strange to you I have not seen 1/2 hour which it was in my power to devote to that purpose (returning a letter) till now on account of business, building, visiting and receiving company etc. (page 407, footnote 9).

And yet we’re to believe that during this time he HAD time to court a woman in addition to his wife and propose marriage to her.

Furthermore, why write over Parley’s original date of June 24, 1843? (Or whoever’s…) Well, it’s important to note that Joseph Smith did not receive the revelation on polygamy until July 12, 1843, according to the LDS Church. So, if Parley did in fact enter into plural marriage before that date (i.e. in June) then he would have done so before the actual revelation was even received, let alone taught by Joseph.

Another relevant question is why is it important that Hyrum performed the ceremony, rather than say Brigham Young, IF it was in July of 1843, when it was “approved”? That’s also an important and interesting detail. The appendix of Parley’s autobiography spells out why. According to this appendix (added by who we cannot be sure) the “Twelve” did not receive the Keys from Joseph until April of 1844. So Brigham would not have had the authority to seal and to bind or to perform this plural marriage.

So although it was conveniently at Brigham’s home, the attribution of who married them, needed to be Hyrum or Joseph. Both of whom were prophets and co-presidents of the Church.

As important as this event would be in Church History, I can find nothing in the actual Joseph Smith Papers or in the History of the Church regarding the plural marriage of this prominent apostle during Joseph’s lifetime. This, however, is conveniently added to the footnotes of the JSP during that timeframe:

Less than a month before this revelation was dictated, Hyrum Smith sealedParley P. Pratt to his wife, Mary Ann Frost Pratt, without authorization from JS. Upon finding out about this sealing, JS criticized Hyrum and reaffirmed his sole authority to perform or to grant authority to others to perform such sealings. Following the dictation of this revelation and with JS’s approval, Hyrum Smith sealed Pratt to his deceased first wife, Thankful Halsey Pratt; his second wife, Mary Ann; and a third wife, Elizabeth Brotherton. Since 1832, JS had dictated revelations that identified himself as the person holding the “keys of the Kingdom.” (Givens and Grow, Parley P. Pratt, 204–205; Mary Ann Frost Pratt, Life Sketch of Olive Frost, ca. May 1887, in “Miscellaneous,” Historical Record, May 1887, 6:234–235; Revelation, 15 Mar. 1832 [D&C 81:2].)  

How strange indeed that Hyrum would perform an eternal sealing without Joseph’s consent.

Like many of these footnotes, they don’t lead to any solid sources. Look at the last link above — it’s to a revelation given to Joseph Smith in 1832. Yet, we’re in 1843 supposedly. No actual corroborating sources to verify JS’s anger, either… The Church and its apologists yet again, wish to stack the footnote narrative to fit their story.

I find it amazing that in one of the few autobiographies of one of the original LDS apostles, Parley Pratt does not help the LDS Church clear up the issue of whether Joseph Smith taught and practiced polygamy or not. Without footnotes in Parley’s record, Joseph cannot be tied to the teaching.

ALL LIES MATTER

I recently received an unexpected response for having sent a video presentation to some people I’m close to. This video makes a very compelling case that Joseph Smith didn’t teach or practice polygamy. I’ve included a link to it at the end of this post. I was taken aback by their various responses and was saddened by some of their comments, which seemed to dismiss the content of the video.

As I’ve pondered this experience, I’ve tried to see things from their current perspective. But, admittedly, this one is hard for me, perhaps because I have never liked the idea of Joseph being a polygamist. It’s always felt inconsistent with Joseph’s mission and message.

One person I sent this information to simply does not think that getting the history on polygamy right is important at all. Somehow Joseph’s character is inconsequential to him. All he knows is God commanded Joseph and Joseph obeyed. “The Church is true. Nothing else matters.”

It seems as though some people are more worried about their narrative staying “true” than they are about the truth itself. I do sympathize with the dilemma, but truth does matter and lies matter. Do we really believe the words to the song — “do what is right, let the consequences follow…?”

Black Lives Matter (#BLM) (since this is a current theme and because I’m using this thematic play on words) is a great example of why the truth matters. Simply look around and see what someone’s false beliefs can inspire them to do. Anyone looking at the title of the organization might be fooled into thinking that #BLM has something to do with caring about “lives.” Look a little more closely and you’ll quickly discover that the organization is a hate filled, Marxist, murderous, anti-family, racist, immoral, disgusting organization that seeks to overthrow our way of life. The content of their message and the effect their beliefs have on them and on society matters a great deal. To suggest otherwise is simply intellectually dishonest.

Let’s look at some other examples.

Many LDS people (myself included) believe that our nation was founded by inspired men. Men of character and honor who God brought together and upon whom His Spirit descended in order to fulfill prophecy in the birth of this great nation on this land of promise. Those who may not share this belief, love to rewrite history to fit their own narrative. False rumors against Thomas Jefferson, for example, were conveniently resurrected to defend Bill Clinton on the eve of Congress deciding whether to remove him from office or not. Revisionists and those who have an agenda want desperately to have it be “settled history” that Jefferson was sleeping with his slave Sally Hemings. This a) helps people like Clinton get away with the crime of adultery with an intern and b) undermines people’s faith in the idea that many of our Founder’s may have actually been honorable, moral, inspired men. Does the truth about Jefferson and our Founders matter? I say it does.

If I had sent a video that exonerated Jefferson of the charges of immortality and fornication, would I have received a different response? These people all generally like Jefferson and I think they’d say he was a man of God. Would they have been upset with me for sending them something that restored faith in him as a person and vindicated him of those false charges? And if that presentation happened to make John Adams, who many believe was complicit in sharing those false claims, look less honorable — would they still have responded so defensively?

If you love this country and love its Founders, aren’t you interested in knowing the truth about our history? And aren’t you especially interested when you find things that defend what you believe is true? Doesn’t it matter? If Adams or any president proves to be less honest than say Jefferson (hypothetically) and less inspired, it doesn’t necessarily make America untrue. But whitewashing history surely doesn’t make the such contradictions go away. Is your faith so fragile in our Founders that you only read books that echo your own current uninformed beliefs? If not, why do so in your study of Church history?

None of these things prove that the United States of America was never “true” or inspired. But I think a clear minded person recognizes that if Jefferson was an immoral man and so were ALL of our Founders, that it absolutely would undermine the integrity of the foundation our nation and thus it matters. This is precisely #BLM’s message. “America was never good because it was conceived by white, racists liars.” Do we not defend against such lies?

To take a modern example, does it matter who went to Jeffery Epstein’s Pedophile Island? Does it matter that Epstein was a pedophile? A sex addict? Does what you know of him cause you to make reasonable judgments? Would you have let him babysit your 12 year old daughter or support his causes? Does it bother you that he was murdered in prison and no one knows who did it? Does it matter that a Prince and at least one American president were regular visitors on the Island? Is the truth not important? Do we just NOT go down that road because we’re afraid of what we might find out?

Laman and Lemuel I think were sincere in their belief that they were tricked into leaving their homeland and were thus robbed of their land of inheritance and consequently their happiness. Their otherwise innocent version of the facts led to the annihilation of civilization. Laman and Lemuel’s beliefs/lies mattered. They led to millions of people dying horrifically, unnecessarily, and prematurely.

I guess we could sanitize everyone’s history and say none of it matters. “The Book of Mormon is true and so disregard the foolish teacher who says beware of false prophets and judge them by their fruits.“ Just because something is or was true does not guarantee it cannot become false when its leaders corrupt it. Wouldn’t you agree? The Constitution is “true” but it must be upheld and defended by virtuous people. It is the oldest Constitution in the world. Any nation is welcome to use it as their own. But could Putin succeed in establishing freedom in Russia by simply adopting and copying our Constitution? Of course not. No one can just copy it unless they are willing to do so upon the principles of righteousness. And the same is true for whether or not we can keep it “true.” This same principle applies to any institution, even a Church we “want” to never fall into apostasy.

Do you think it matters to an investigator of the LDS Church whether Joseph was a pedophile or not? Let’s be really clear — if the Church’s current history is true then:

  1. Joseph was an adulterer. The Church says he took his first plural wife without Emma’s knowledge or consent AND 12 years before even he received the revelation on plural marriage.
  2. Joseph was a polygamist and consummated those marriages sexually.
  3. Joseph was a pedophile. He married underage women.
  4. Joseph was a liar. He openly preached against polygamy and secretly practiced it.
  5. Joseph was a hypocrite.

Of course, according to the Church, Joseph was commanded by God to do all these things.

But does the truth matter? If you have a child having a faith crisis because they’ve read the Church’s Essays, might these details matter to them?

If the presentation I sent to my friends is correct, then:

  1. Joseph Smith was not an adulterer.
  2. Joseph was not a polygamist.
  3. Joseph was not a pedophile.
  4. Joseph was not a liar.
  5. Joseph was not a hypocrite.

If teaching your friend who is interested in learning more about the Restored Gospel, which set of facts would you rather have on your side? The first set that potentially undermines everything you may share? Or the second set, that is way more consistent with the beautiful message of the restored gospel? More importantly, do you want to share the truth or do you want to unwittingly spreads lies? WE have a duty to find out the truth on the matter OR we lead people astray. And lastly, do you care more about a “church” than you do about the Restoration?

Let’s look at the train wreck of polygamy. What did that teaching inspire? What did it yield? It did not produce more offspring. That’s a fact. Women had fewer children who were polygmaIst than the average non polygamist woman. There was no shortage of men — that’s completely false. Are we so comfortable lying for the Lord as Mormons that we don’t seek to correct the record when lies are shared? What other lies are we comfortable sharing? Unpaid ministry? The brethren seeing God as did Joseph? The Lord attending Thursday meetings? If those are lies, do we not want the truth? Do we really want to simply let the lies go uncorrected for the greater good? I can promise you one thing, if you lie to someone (even if by simply not correcting the record) it is likely to lead to a far more serious faith crisis at some point as a result.

Polygamy in the Church led to wife swapping, whoredoms, murder, adultery, wife stealing and abuse. Does it really not matter one iota to you that it may not have been started by Joseph Smith? And if it wasn’t do you not think it important to defend our dear brother Joseph at all costs? Regardless of whatever we think the implications may or may not be?

Here’s an example a little closer to home. Let’s say that someone starts a rumor about you at work that you are fooling around with your secretary. Do you care if no one comes to your defense, assuming there is no truth to the allegations? Do you think the rumors could lead to other adverse consequences if not corrected or addressed? Do you think the company could suffer as a result of the falsehood going uncorrected? Worse, imagine now that the rumor is that you secretly believe in polygamy and you are entering into secret marriage covenants with other men’s wives, with teenagers, all behind your wife’s back. Would these lies matter? Would they affect the way people treat you? Respond to you? Would people quit because of the rumors? Would the organization and its mission suffer? If this is you being accused, do you want the company when you’re gone to publish lies that confirm that the rumors were true? When they’re not? Do your kids want their father’s legacy to be those lies? Do you want your kids and grandkids to use those lies that they now believe to be truths to justify their own immoral actions? Again, does the truth matter?

A dear friend made an great point the other day. According to Brigham Young, anyone who rejects the teaching of polygamy and does not enter into it, cannot be saved in the highest degree of the Celestial KIngdom. As far as I know, those words have never been renounced. To the contrary, President Nelson and Elder Oaks and others are often cited as living that “higher law.” So, if polygamy was started by Joseph and it is the higher law and we must accept it and practice it at some point, then why isn’t the Church pushing for its legalization? It would be a brilliant legal move in my opinion and may have prevented gay marriage from becoming legal. But, now that gay marriage is legal, why not push for it if you believe in it? If it was true then, why is not true today? Better yet, IF it becomes legal, will the Church re-instate it? And why wouldn’t it? And more importantly, would you practice it? Now would you want to know for sure if Joseph really taught it? Would the truth matter to you now? Your bishop tells you you need to marry the 16 year old from the Sunday School class your’e teaching. You need to go home and break the news to your wife. Are the historical details meaningless to you now? Your wife may leave you. Your boss may fire you. Your kids may lose all confidence in you. Does whether the doctrine came from Joseph or Brigham matter now? If it was a lie promoted by Brigham, are you still comfortable proceeding? If it leads you to hell, and to whoredoms, do you really just want to trust your bishop rather than figuring this out for yourself?

I sent this video that I’m including here below to many of my friends and family because I think enough of them to share things I find persuasive, lovely, exonerating, and good. Because I love the truth and I love the Lord. And I love Joseph. I did not send it to them with some hidden agenda or with any grand scheme in mind. I sent it to all my kids as well and shared it with my wife. That’s how good I think it is. I do not know the producer of it. I don’t know his beliefs or his religion. All I know is I think he does an amazing job of shedding light on a really important topic. And it excited me. Certain people’s response was deflating and reminded me that people are afraid of truth. It threatens them and they fear what it may lead to. Surely Joseph was right when he said:

“I have tried for a number of years to get the minds of the Saints prepared to receive the things of God; but we frequently see some of them, after suffering all they have for the work of God, will fly to pieces like glass as soon as anything comes that is contrary to their traditions: they cannot stand the fire at all. How many will be able to abide a celestial law, and go through and receive their exaltation, I am unable to say, as many are called, but few are chosen [see D&C 121:40].

I truly believed this group of friends would respond normally and maturely (in fairness two of them did):

“Hey thanks for the recommendation! I’ll check it out! (After watching it…). “Wow, that was really interesting! Made me think! Not totally sure I agree with all the conclusions but will certainly study the topic further… Thanks for sharing! I’m so glad we share a mutual love for Joseph and Emma!”

This is how people might reply who are not threatened by someone who they know loves them and who is sharing something they are excited about. The way they chose to respond shuts down dialogue, makes people feel foolish, and frankly reminds me of how so many leaders in the Church treat people they disagree with. Testify louder! Rebuke. Correct. Stay true to the Brethren at all costs. Be intellectually dishonest. Don’t reason. Don’t ponder such things. Don’t pray over such things. Protect the flock by silencing ideas and by turning off the mic. In short, passive aggressive and fearful and controlling.

As I have learned the truth about Joseph and Emma, it has strengthened my faith in the Book of Mormon, the Pearl of Great Price, Lectures on Faith, the JST Bible and in all the Teachings and mission of Joseph Smith. Surely he was a prophet of God! And as he proclaimed, he was surely guilty of sins, but NOT the ones he is charged with. And the truth on that subject matters. I invite you to watch this video and ask God which version of the history of polygamy is true.