Request Baptism

Fellowship Locator

Scriptures Project

Doctrine of Christ Conference

Restoration Archives

Restoration Archives

Zion/


Joseph Smith - Honest Seer or Lying Polygamist

3. Joseph's history was modified to change his position on plural marriage.

“The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that ‘no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed’ is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations , these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind the scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: ‘I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph’s death his memoir was ‘doctored’ to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838.'” (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess , Signature Books (Salt Lake City), p. 322)

Joseph's Journal entry for October 5, 1843 was specifically changed to reverse Joseph's position on plural marriage.

Here is the original entry (spelling updated)
Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives. On this, Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof. No man shall have but one wife.

Now here is a picture of the journal entry (josephsmithpapers.org). You can see on the side is written at an angle: "To be revised".

Joseph Journal Changed

Notice that the revision completely changes the meaning. Words in Red are added and strikeout words removed.
Evening at home and walked up and down the street with my scribe. Gave instruction to try those who were preaching teaching or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives; for according to the law I hold the keys of this power in the last days, for there is never but one on the Earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred and I have continually said On this, Joseph forbids it and the practice thereof No man shall have but one wife at a time unless the Lord directs otherwise.
Denver Snuffer commented on this change in Joseph's journal:
The original entry is definitive with no exceptions provided and matches perfectly with what Joseph consistently taught: polygamy was not something to be practiced. If Joseph was secretly practicing polygamy, why would he continue this charade in a private conversation with his scribe? Why would he unequivocally forbid it? Why would he demand those practicing it be tried in a church court?

In order to reconcile this with the prevailing narrative that Joseph was lying requires a person to ascribe significant duplicity to a man shown now to have denied and forbidden polygamy publicly and privately. Conversely, this document shows yet another example of a willingness on the part of the LDS church to modify historical records to fit a preconceived narrative. And once again, contemporary evidence is found to show Joseph perfectly consistent in his views condemning plural marriage.

On April 1, 1845, Brigham Young recorded the following: "I commenced revising the History of Joseph Smith at Brother Richard's office: Elder Heber C. Kimball and George A. Smith were with me." By this time Joseph had been dead for ten months. One must wonder what revisions Brigham Young was making to Joseph’s history.The extent to which the early LDS church went in making revisions is only now beginning to be understood as more and more historical documents are released for the first time. Consider this perspective:
The official History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints was published in book form under the direction of the First Presidency in 1902. The introductory assurance that 'no historical or doctrinal statement has been changed' is demonstrably wrong. Overshadowed by editorial censorship, hundreds of deletions, additions, and alterations , these seven volumes are not always reliable. …The nineteenth-century propaganda mill was so adroit that few outside Brigham Young’s inner circle were aware of the behind-the-scenes alterations so seamlessly stitched into church history. Charles Wesley Wandell, an assistant church historian, was aghast at these emendations. Commenting on the many changes made in the historical work as it was being serialized in the Deseret News, Wandell noted in his diary: "I notice the interpolations because having been employed in the Historian’s office at Nauvoo by Doctor Richards, and employed, too, in 1845, in compiling this very autobiography, I know that after Joseph's death his memoir was 'doctored' to suit the new order of things, and this, too, by the direct order of Brigham Young to Doctor Richards and systematically by Richards.” The Quorum of the Twelve, under Brigham Young’s leadership, began altering the historical record shortly after Smith’s death. Contrary to the introduction’s claim, Smith did not author the History of the Church. At the time of his 1844 death, the narrative had been written up to 5 August 1838. (Richard S. Van Wagoner, Sidney Rigdon: A Portrait of Religious Excess , Signature Books (Salt Lake City, 1994), p. 322.)
It would appear that every effort was made by Brigham Young and those who followed him west to preserve a narrative. That they did so is beyond questioning. It’s impossible for us today to decipher their motives for doing so. Regardless, the original history supports the notion that Joseph Smith was not a polygamist.
(Joseph Smith Monogamy, p. 17-18)