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,
Conflicting claims about the marriage of Joseph to LOUISA BEAMAN
No claim shown below of Louisa
allegedly marrying Joseph was made during Joseph’s lifetime, but
instead variously appeared 26-52 after his death. Joseph’s
accusers maintain conflicting accounts, arguing that the marriage
occurred on four different days or months (April 5, May 5, May 6
or Fall) and in three different years (1840, 1841, or 1842). They
also disagree where the marriage occurred. Some claim it occurred
indoors, at a residence--that did not exist on the date of the
alleged ceremony; while another claims it transpired outdoors in a
public park in May--with the bride camouflaged in men’s winter
clothing so as to not attract attention (because nothing disguises
a woman like having her wear men’s winter clothing in the summer,
and nothing disguises the most recognizable man in the highly
religious town he is mayor of like making him appear to wed
another man, in a public park!).
- In 1866 (or 1874?), Wilford Woodruff claimed JS married Louisa
on May, 5th or 6th 1840; per Wilford Woodruff, “Historian’s
Private Journal” (See Bergera, Gary, The Journal of Mormon
History, October 2015, 99; per Hales, Brian C., Interpreter—A
Journal of Mormon Scripture, Vol. 20. 2016, The Interpreter
Foundation, 1, 10). Very suspiciously, the Journal entry for
this 1840 event appears on a page dated to July 1, 1866 (26
years after the alleged marriage), and the very next entry in
the Journal leaps eight years into the future to November 18,
1874--34 years after the alleged marriage (See Bergera, 99; per
Hales, 14). To believe that the Woodruff Journal is genuine, one
must deduce that 26 years after Joseph married Louisa, Woodruff
suddenly remembered to record that event, and then did not
bother making another entry in his Journal until eight more
- In 1869, Joseph B. Noble (Louisa’s father-in- law) swore that
JS married Louisa in Autumn of 1840 (Affidavit, June 26, 1869,
Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books 1:38; also see Hales, 11).
- In 1869, Noble also swore that JS married Louisa in a
different month and year than sworn above—that the marriage
transpired April 5, 1841 (Joseph B. Noble, Affidavit, June 26,
1869, Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 1:3 & 4:1, per Hales,
- In 1869, Noble is quoted stating that JS married Louisa on yet
a different date--May 6, 1841 (See Scott G. Kenney, ed., Wilford
Woodruff's Journal, 6:452, February 22, 1869; per Hales, 10).
- In 1869, Franklin D. Richards asserted that JS married Louisa
on a date different from all three previously asserted by
Noble--May 5, 1841. Additionally, Richards contends that Noble
is completely wrong that the marriage occurred indoors in his
home, claiming instead that it was outdoors “under an Elm tree
with Louisa disguised in a coat and hat” (Franklin D. Richards
Journal, Jan 22, 1869, MS 1215, LDS CHL; see Hales, page8).
- In 1880, Noble changed the year JS married Louisa again—from
1841, back to 1840, as he had originally postulated. (Noble,
quoted in A. Karl Larson and Katherine M. Larson, eds., Diary of
Charles Lowell Walker, 2:515; per Hales, 11).
- In 1892, so sure was Noble that the marriage date was 1840 and
that he officiated the ceremony in his home in Nauvoo on that
date, that he testified to those facts under oath—however--Noble
did not move to Nauvoo (with daughter-in-law Louisa) and
establish a home there until nearly 1842 (See Bergera, Gary, The
Journal of Mormon History, October 2015, 112; per Hales, page8)!
- In 1892, Nobles affirmed under oath that JS’s marriage to
Louisa may not have transpired in 1841 at all, that perhaps it
was 1842, maybe, or so (See Temple Lot Case, Part 3, pp. 432,
436, Questions 793, 799, 861; per Hales, 8, 12).
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)