5. Memory is not a reliable source for accurate historical
Joseph was sealed to Eliza R. Snow and she is considered one of
his "wives." The story is told that Eliza was pregnant with
Joseph's child and Emma was upset and pushed her down the steps of
the Mansion house, Eliza miscarried and lost the child. However
the story is false
for several reasons. Eliza was never pregnant with Joseph's
child and she wasn't pushed down the stairs.
In a letter from Eliza to Daniel Munns, an RLDS member:
You asked (referring to President Smith), did he authorize or
practice spiritual wifery? Were you a spiritual wife? I
certainly shall not acknowledge myself of having been a carnal
one. (Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Vol. 1: History,
A common story in Mormon history is the Transfiguration of
Brigham Young on August 8, 1844. Even though there are many
accounts of the event, there are strong reasons to believe that it
- There are no contemporary accounts. The
first mention of something special came many years later.
- The church was sustaining the Quorum of Twelve apostles to
lead the church, not Brigham Young.
- Testimonies from John D. Lee and Apostle Orson Hyde are
marvelous and specific, but they were not in Nauvoo at the time
and therefor could not have witnessed the event they describe.
All humans have some fake
memories that the believe really happened, but did not
We have a tendency to believe certain stories that we want to be
true and ignore or discard those factual events that we want to
deny. Denver Snuffer discusses this in Joseph Smith Monogamy
The late Boyd K. Packer’s lament that
not all truths are faith promoting or useful (and should
therefore be suppressed) is likely an inherited viewpoint
reflecting the traditions of church leaders who came before him.
Because of this, Mormon history is in some respects
anti-historic because it ignores and denies some truth when it
contradicts tradition or fails to uphold a desired position.
This tendency clouds the historical record of plural marriage.
This pattern is indicative of a culture where speaking
untruthfully to defend a narrative was not only justified, but
expected. This tendency is, believe it or not, normal human
behavior. Individuals and groups are prone to confirmation bias
and even false memories. Human
beings tend to remember past events in ways that conform to
current thinking. Rather than viewing the embellishments
of the LDS polygamists as something nefarious, perhaps one would
more wisely view it as an unfortunate consequence of the human
condition. However, it does call into question the evidence
presented after Joseph’s death.
Recognizing that they were willing to invent, embellish, and
falsely deny in order to protect a desired narrative
demonstrates their desperation in difficult times. Knowing this
makes it easier to doubt the validity of evidence from the late
1800s tying Joseph Smith to polygamy. It also highlights the
importance of focusing on contemporary evidence of Joseph’s
Even so, analyzing contemporary evidence presents further
questions of credibility. Many of the same key witnesses from
the LDS church who claim Joseph taught them personally to
practice polygamy are the same people who signed affidavits in
Nauvoo stating there was no such practice. Wilford Woodruff and
John Taylor both signed an affidavit in 1842 stating “we know of
no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from
the Book of Doctrine and Covenants”.(Times and Seasons 3
[October 1, 1842]: 939–940)