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Joseph Smith - Honest Seer or Lying Polygamist

2. Latter-day Scriptures warned against polygamy and D&C132 was modified.

Jacob 2
23 But the word of God burdens me because of your grosser crimes. For behold, thus saith the Lord: This people begin to wax in iniquity; they understand not the scriptures, for they seek to excuse themselves in committing whoredoms, because of the things which were written concerning David, and Solomon his son.
24 Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord.
25 Wherefore, thus saith the Lord, I have led this people forth out of the land of Jerusalem, by the power of mine arm, that I might raise up unto me a righteous branch from the fruit of the loins of Joseph.
26 Wherefore, I the Lord God will not suffer that this people shall do like unto them of old.
27 Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none;
28 For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts.
29 Wherefore, this people shall keep my commandments, saith the Lord of Hosts, or cursed be the land for their sakes.
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.

A common justification in Mormon theology for plural marriage is to "raise up seed." And yet Joseph never produced any children with anyone but his wife Emma. 

There is also a basic misunderstanding of Jacob 2:30 which is discussed here and also here.

D&C 42 - Feb. 9, 1831

22 Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shalt cleave unto her and none else.
23 And he that looketh upon a woman to lust after her shall deny the faith, and shall not have the Spirit; and if he repents not he shall be cast out.
24 Thou shalt not commit adultery; and he that committeth adultery, and repenteth not, shall be cast out.
25 But he that has committed adultery and repents with all his heart, and forsaketh it, and doeth it no more, thou shalt forgive;
26 But if he doeth it again, he shall not be forgiven, but shall be cast out.

D&C 49 - March 1831

15 And again, verily I say unto you, that whoso forbiddeth to marry is not ordained of God, for marriage is ordained of God unto man.
16 Wherefore, it is lawful that he should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation;

D&C 63 - August 1831

12 Wherefore, I, the Lord, am not pleased with those among you who have sought after signs and wonders for faith, and not for the good of men unto my glory.
13 Nevertheless, I give commandments, and many have turned away from my commandments and have not kept them.
14 There were among you adulterers and adulteresses; some of whom have turned away from you, and others remain with you that hereafter shall be revealed.
15 Let such beware and repent speedily, lest judgment shall come upon them as a snare, and their folly shall be made manifest, and their works shall follow them in the eyes of the people.
16 And verily I say unto you, as I have said before, he that looketh on a woman to lust after her, or if any shall commit adultery in their hearts, they shall not have the Spirit, but shall deny the faith and shall fear.
Section 101 in 1835 D&C, also published in Times and Seasons, Vol III, No. 23, October 1, 1842, p. 939
1 According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority.-We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: "You both mutually agree to be each other's companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives." And when they have answered "Yes," he shall pronounce them "husband and wife" in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: "may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfil [fulfill] your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen."
3 The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch.
4 All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin.
Although section 101 was written by Oliver Cowdery, "there is also some evidence that an article on marriage was already anticipated, and cited four times in the new D&C's index, which was prepared under Joseph's direction and probably available prior to his departure. Thus, 'if a disagreement existed, it was resolved before the Prophet left for Pontiac.' "  (Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy Vol. 1, pp. 171-173)

When section 101 was also printed in the Times and Seasons, there it was followed with this statement:
We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew [show] that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despise. In support of this position, we present the following certificates:-

We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.

S. Bennett, N. K. Whitney,
George Miller, Albert Pettey,
Alpheus Cutler, Elias Higbee,
Reynolds Cahoon, John Taylor,
Wilson Law, E. Robinson,
W. Woodruff, Aaron Johnson.

We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised [practiced] in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to the public to show that J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a disclosure of his own make.

Emma Smith, President,
Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor [Counselor],
Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor [Counselor],
Eliza R. Snow, Secretary,
Mary C. Miller, Catharine Pettey,
Lois Cutler, Sarah Higbee,
Thirza Cahoon, Phebe Woodruff
Ann Hunter, Leonora Taylor,
Jane Law, Sarah Hillman,
Sophia R. Marks, Rosannah Marks,
Polly Z. Johnson, Angeline Robinson,
Abigail Works.
Why does the Doctrine and Covenants warn against secrecy among the Saints?
D&C 117
- July 8, 1838
11 Let my servant Newel K. Whitney be ashamed of the Nicolaitane band and of all their secret abominations, and of all his littleness of soul before me, saith the Lord, and come up to the land of Adam-ondi-Ahman, and be a bishop unto my people, saith the Lord, not in name but in deed, saith the Lord
Some research suggests that the Nicolaitans were early Christians who claimed Nicolas had received a revelation that led him to participate in idolatrous sexual practices (see Irenaeus, Epiphanius, Hippolytus). . . The Nicolaitans were said to follow him into "unrestrained indulgences" or "love feasts" in two cities known for idolatry, Ephesus and Pergamos. Their religious rites involved sex and were also called "Balaam's error" (see Jude 4-16; 2 Peter 2:2-21) The "Nicolaitan rites" featured feasting on unclean things sacrificed to idols, followed by fornication in religious rites. (The Secret Chamber, Spiritual Wifery and the Doctrine of Christ, p. 33)
As early as January 2, 1831 the Lord was warning against actions taken in a "Secret Chamber."
D&C 38
13 And now I show unto you a mystery, a thing which is had in secret chambers, to bring to pass even your destruction in process of time, and ye knew it not;
. . .
28 And again, I say unto you that the enemy in the secret chambers seeketh your lives.
It is generally taught that Joseph introduced polygamy as early as 1835 and had Fanny Alger sealed to him at that time and then several other women starting in 1841. If that was the case, then D&C 132 doesn't make any sense. This section is dated as given on July 12, 1843. Verse 1 says that Joseph has asked about prophets who had several wives.
2 Behold, and lo, I am the Lord thy God, and will answer thee as touching this matter.
3 Therefore, prepare thy heart to receive and obey the instructions which I am about to give unto you; for all those who have this law revealed unto them must obey the same.
Why would Joseph need to prepare his heard "to receive and obey the instructions" if he had already been practicing polygamy for several years?

Section 132: Questioned Origins
- From Denver Snuffer's "Joseph's Monogamy"

“Did you ever see any document of that kind, purporting to be a revelation, to authorize polygamy?
No; I never did.
Did Joseph Smith ever teach you the principles of polygamy, as being revealed to him, or as a correct and righteous  principle?
He never did.”
—1879 Interview with Emma Smith, RLDS History of the Church 3:352–358
One thing William Law’s Nauvoo Expositor did do effectively was cite an alleged revelation from Joseph that justified the practice of polygamy. That revelation is today known as Section 132 of the Doctrine & Covenants. This section comprises an alleged revelation to Joseph Smith that institutionalizes the practice of plural marriage as a law from God. It was not released publicly until 1852, eight years after Joseph’s death and after Brigham Young led thousands of Mormons in a westward exodus.

At the time William Law made his accusations in the Expositor regarding this alleged revelation, Joseph and Hyrum did not deny the existence of a revelation but flatly denied that it permitted plural wives. In the City Council minutes of June 8, 1844 Joseph and Hyrum give us a glimpse into the revelation according to them:
“[Hyrum] referred to the revelation [he] read to the [Nauvoo Stake] High council — that it was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days & had no reference to the present time — that W[illia]m Law[,] when sick[,] [confessed and] said ^he had been guilty of adultery &^ he was not fit to live or die, had sinned against his own soul….

[The mayor said]...They make [it] a criminality of for a man to have a wife on the earth while he has one in heaven — according to the keys of the holy priesthood, and [the mayor] read the statement of W[illia]m Law in the Expositor, where the truth of God was transformed into a lie. [He] read [the] statements of Austin Cowles — & said he had never had any private conversation with Austin Cowles on these subjects, that he preached on the stand from the bible showing the order in ancient days[,] having nothing to do with the present time ...

C[ouncillor] H[yrum] Smith — spoke to show the falsehood of Austin Cowles in relation to the revelation referred to — that it referred to former days [and] not the present time as stated by Cowles. [The] Mayor said he had never preached the revelation in private as he had in public — had not taught it to the highest anointed in the Church ^in private^ which many confirmed. [The mayor said][,] on enquiring [of God regarding] the passage in [the Bible that in] the resurrection they neither marry &c[:] I received for [an] answer, Men in this life must be married in view of Eternity, [and that] was the [full] amount of the [content of the] revelation, otherwise [in the resurrection] they must remain as angels only in heaven, and [the mayor] spoke at considerable length in explanation of the[se] principles[.] (The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes , John S. Dinger; p 6992 Kindle edition (emphasis added))
Interestingly enough, William Law, whom Hyrum refers to above as an adulterer, would later state the revelation he was allegedly shown was “much shorter” than the one that later become known as D&C 132. It raises the possibility that the current Section 132 was modified or added to at some point. The question again becomes whether one believes Joseph and Hyrum capable of such deceit as to blatantly lie about the true contents of the revelation. In their own words, the revelation forbade the practice of polygamy, whereas the version released eight years after Joseph’s death by Brigham Young, says the opposite.

It’s said that William Clayton recorded the original revelation before Emma allegedly burned it, a charge Emma flatly denies.(JD 6:281) In fact, Emma died having denied multiple times that Joseph was ever involved in polygamy. She also claimed that Section 132 was not genuine. In the Temple Lot case, Joseph Kingsbury claimed that he too made a copy of the revelation in 1843, shortly after the revelation was received and before Emma allegedly burned the original. Immediately upon completing the copy, Kingsbury claims to have handed the original back to Newel K Whitney who then returned it to an anxiously awaiting Hyrum Smith. Whitney retained the copy made by Kingsbury. It is that copy from which the current Section 132 supposedly comes.

Kingsbury is an important figure to consider. He was Whitney’s store clerk in 1843. Thirty-one years old at the time, he was a widower, having married Whitney’s daughter Caroline, who died in 1842. Kingsbury was called to testify at the Temple Lot case. Upon taking the stand, he “refused to take the ordinary oath to ‘tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth’”.
(Abstract Evidence Temple Lot Case U.S.C.C. p. 333) He would later clarify regarding 60 his testimony:
“I do not swear to that; I affirm to it. To my mind there is a difference between swearing to anything and affirming to it...I generally affirm, and I suppose it is because my understanding is that a man cannot be convicted of perjury on an affirmation, and he can when he is sworn.” (Abstract Evidence Temple Lot Case U.S.C.C. p. 339)
He also stated that some statements he made were based on presumptions, saying “I presume that he did” when asked if Joseph taught polygamy. When asked directly whether he would “swear” that Joseph taught to have multiple wives, Kingsbury reiterated, “I am affirming”. It is a curious position to take in a court of law and allows for little confidence in Kingsbury’s
testimony. Whether it was due to his poor recollection of events or his fear of being convicted of lying in court, his testimony should be viewed with prejudice. By extension, so should the document he “affirmed” to have recorded (Section 132).

Even assuming his affirmation was the truth, Kingsbury was adamant that he knew nothing about the polygamy revelation other than “what Bishop Whitney told me”.
(Abstract Evidence Temple Lot Case U.S.C.C. p. 336) In other words, Kingsbury had no direct knowledge that what he was asked to copy legitimately came from Joseph Smith. Furthermore, Kingsbury states that he was not a secretary to Whitney, Joseph, or anyone else. He was merely the store clerk filling in for a unique request from his boss. Once the revelation was completed, Kingsbury says he never saw it again. Yet nearly 50 years later he “affirmed” that it was the same as what is now known as Section 132.

In contrast to this testimony, let us consider the testimony of James Whitehead, the personal secretary to Joseph Smith at the time of his death. Whitehead seemed puzzled that Kingsbury and Clayton would have anything to do with copying a revelation on plural marriage. Regarding Kingsbury he stated: “he did not have anything to do whatever with the duties of secretary to the prophet Joseph Smith”. Regarding Clayton he said: “he was there helping with the books...attended the outside business” whereas Whitehead was the “private secretary of the prophet; had his private papers and did that kind of work”. Whitehead further explained that Clayton had been playing a larger role but lost some responsibilities because “there was some money disappeared and [Clayton] was blamed for it”.(No revelations were recorded by Clayton) It does seem a strange circumstance that the most sensitive revelation Joseph would ever give (assuming Section 132 is genuine) would originally be recorded by his financial clerk (Clayton), a man who did not record a single other revelation. The other person to make a copy of this very sensitive document would be an obscure store clerk (Kingsbury). If Whitehead’s testimony is accurate, it’s difficult to fathom why Joseph would trust this sensitive document to Clayton and especially Kingsbury.

It’s likewise curious that Kingsbury would again be the sole scribe to record an alleged 1842 revelation to Newell K. Whitney. (transcript) This revelation detailed the ceremony to be used in order to marry Joseph to Whitney’s daughter. The revelation explicitly states “I give you S[arah] A[nn] Whitney my Daughter to Joseph Smith to be his wife”. There are two copies of it in what appear to be identical handwriting. No explanation is given as to why there are two copies. According to the church registry, both are in the handwriting of Joseph Kingsbury. It is worth noting that this revelation was not published until 1979. The first recorded reference made to it does not appear until 1885, more than 40 years after it was allegedly recorded. The sole living witness to the veracity of this document at the time it is first made reference to is Joseph Kingsbury and it came at a time when the LDS church was anxiously attempting to prove the validity of plural marriage as a fundamental tenet of the Mormon faith.

Kingsbury is found at the heart of the only two recorded revelations that endorse plural marriage an odd achievement for him considering the sensitivity of such a topic and that he was not part of Joseph’s inner circle. His fear of perjuring himself provides us with reason to suspect his truthfulness. As such, his central role with Section 132 and the alleged 1842 revelation brings with it questions of its validity.

If genuine, the 1842 revelation to Newel Whitney would raise serious questions about the validity of the current LDS marriage ceremony which was published by Orson Pratt in The Seer , a LDS church publication from 1853. The Pratt document describes a ceremony that is completely different in wording and procedure than the alleged 1842 revelation. It begs the question: why would God reveal a marriage ordinance in 1842 that He would replace entirely by 1853? Accepting this document as proof that Joseph was a polygamist requires a believing Mormon to accept that the divinely instituted marriage ceremony changed drastically once Joseph died despite his teaching that ordinances should never be changed.(TPJS p. 308) Another reasonable conclusion would be that the alleged 1842 revelation is not contemporary or genuine. The possibility that this document was recorded long after the fact as a reminiscence or manufactured in order to preserve a narrative ought to be considered.

Returning to Section 132, the sole living witnesses to these events after the year 1850 were William Clayton and Joseph Kingsbury. At the time of the Temple Lot trial, Clayton was long dead and there was no other firsthand witness living who could deny or substantiate the events surrounding those two documents. And yet, in a court of law, Kingsbury was unwilling to do more than “affirm” and “presume” for fear of committing perjury.

As stated earlier, Joseph admits there was a revelation on marriage. The contents of the revelation are disputed, not the reality of it. Whitehead offers further commentary on what he says the revelation was originally about:
“Newel K Whitney...showed me a revelation on the question of sealing . The revelation that Whitney showed me was on the matter of sealing, that was before [the exodus] to Salt Lake City [but] after the death of Joseph Smith. I went up to Winter Quarters to settle my account with the church...while I was there I stayed all night with Bishop Whitney and he showed me this revelation; that was in the spring of 1848. [The revelation] purported to have been given in 1842 or 1843...I have never seen it since that time...I never saw it in print. I saw what they claimed was it...

But the one published in the book of Doctrine & Covenants by the Utah church was not the one that Bishop Whitney showed me at Winter Quarters...It was entirely changed. It was so changed that it sanctioned polygamy , and that change was made by the Brighamites. For there was no such thing in it when I read published by them it sanctions and imposes polygamy on the church but there was no such thing in the revelation that Whitney showed me...

It was entirely changed but there were some points of similarity in it…When I read [Section 132] I considered that they had gotten that revelation from Bishop Whitney and had changed it and had added to it...[The original revelation] left a very strong impression on my mind for that was the first time I had seen that revelation on sealing. (Abstract Evidence Temple Lot Case U.S.C.C. p. 475-477)
Whitehead makes an astonishing claim regarding the origins of Section 132. If his story is true, there was a revelation from Joseph Smith in Newel Whitney’s possession but that revelation differed markedly from the one that was eventually published by the LDS church. (One intriguing analysis of writing style determined Brigham Young to be the most likely author of Section 132 rather than Joseph Smith.) Whitehead’s description of the revelation Whitney showed him bears some resemblance to what Joseph and Hyrum claimed regarding the revelation before the Nauvoo City Council. Whitehead remembers the revelation to be about “sealing” and marrying one man and one wife “for time and all eternity”. Joseph, as shown above, says the revelation showed that “men in this life must be married in view of eternity” and that polygamy was forbidden. If true, it suggests Whitney may not have known about plural marriage during Joseph’s life and was therefore truthful when he signed an affidavit in 1842 claiming that polygamy was not being practiced.

In the Temple Lot case, Woodruff testified thusly regarding the purported revelation:
I do not know where the original of the revelation called the polygamous revelation is. I do not know that I ever saw it. I do not believe I ever did see it.

I never saw a copy of it or the original during the lifetime of Joseph Smith. I do not think I saw the one that came here to Utah and purported to be a copy of the original.

I do not know whether the church of which I am the President has the purported copy or not . The church papers are in the possession of various parties the historian of the church has them more or less. The original manuscripts or copies of the original manuscripts are in various places.

I don’t hold the originals of the revelations that were promulgated through Brigham Young nor John Taylor. Brigham Young and John Taylor were the main presidents of the church. You may say the only ones since the death of Joseph Smith.(Abstract Evidence Temple Lot Case U.S.C.C. p. 308)
Woodruff then goes on to say it was “probable” that he was present at the 1852 General Conference where the revelation was read to the church but he does not “recollect that fact”. In this particular lawsuit, the Utah-based LDS church was seeking to prove that Joseph was indeed a polygamist. The existence of a revelation from Joseph, even a copy of the original, would undoubtedly have helped their case. But oddly, President Woodruff does not know where the revelation is or even if it still exists. Nor can he remember being present when it was presented to the church in a general conference. In another surprising move, he discounts the importance of his position in the church compared to his predecessors. Brigham Young had similarly declared himself less than his predecessor. ( The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young , Vol. 3, p. 1347.) (JD 5:296)

The current LDS narrative that insists church leaders aren’t capable of leading the church astray yields a Mormon populace prone to discounting Joseph. They often look at his supposed plural marriage attempts as the efforts of a dedicated, albeit ignorant, man doing his best to fulfill a mandate that he did not understand how to fulfill. Or so the reasoning goes. It continues that Brigham Young, free from the constraints of US law, instituted the practice properly in Utah by marrying 55 women. He fathered 56 children from 16 of those wives. Confirmation bias may be to blame for a group that believes Joseph Smith the man vouched for in LDS scripture (see D&C 43:17) and who provided a steady stream of new scripture and prophetic fruits is the one who misunderstood and misapplied the doctrine of sealings. Meanwhile the man who followed after Joseph (Brigham Young) who denied having direct divine interaction and was uncomfortable being called a prophet, seer, and revelator is the one who understood and applied it correctly. In that contrast it becomes easier to consider that Joseph Smith was possibly not practicing plural marriage but instead instituted something he never fully explained (sealings) that was later molded into the practice of plural marriage seen in the early LDS church.
Brigham said of himself: “I have flattered myself...when I have lived to be as old as was Moses when the Lord appeared to him, that perhaps I then may hold communion with the Lord, as did Moses. I am not now in that position...Have I yet lived to the state of perfection that I can commune in person with the Father and the Son at my will and pleasure? No.” ( Journal of Discourses v. 7, no. 37, p. 243, 1859). Brigham would later say: “Perhaps, when I am eighty years of age, I may be able to talk with some Being of a higher sphere than this. Moses saw the glory of God at that age, and held converse with better beings than he had formerly conversed with. I hope and trust that by the time I am that age I shall also be counted worthy to enjoy the same privilege." ( Journal of Discourses v. 10 no. 4, p. 23, 1862). For Brigham’s reluctance at being called a prophet, seer, and revelator, see The Complete Discourses of Brigham Young , Vol. 3, p. 1347.
That’s an interesting pattern, one perhaps we see again in the lives of the early Mormons. It is possible that Nephi, like Joseph Smith, practiced something the people generally didn’t know about or understand (sealings) that was subsequently altered into an “abomination” in the form of plural marriage after his death. If Section 132 is not genuine, it would reconcile
why Jacob 1:15 says it was a “wicked practice” for David and Solomon to have had multiple wives whereas Section 132:39 says the only error committed by David was “in the case of Uriah and his wife”. The oft-cited “exception” in Jacob 2:30 perhaps isn’t an exception after all.

The fact remains that Joseph never practiced what Brigham Young did. There also lacks a righteous scriptural example that fits what Brigham practiced. There are, however, wicked scriptural examples that fit the type of polygamy practiced by Brigham Young. (Jacob 1:15 ; Mosiah 11:14 ; Ether 10:5) It would be easy to conclude from the existing evidence that Young, Taylor, Woodruff and others were guilty of knowingly ascribing false behavior to Joseph Smith after his death. Such a prospect is difficult to accept for most believing LDS Mormons. However, regardless of what the reader decides about this topic, she will have to accept that either Joseph Smith or the leaders who came after him went to great lengths to establish a lie as truth.