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Joseph Smith - Honest Seer or Lying Polygamist

5. Memory is not a reliable source for accurate historical events.

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, p. 287)

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 years passed!
  • 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, 10, 11).
  • 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 didn't occur.

  1. There are no contemporary accounts. The first mention of something special came many years later.
  2. The church was sustaining the Quorum of Twelve apostles to lead the church, not Brigham Young.
  3. 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 actually occur.

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 (p. 7)

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 involvement.

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)