9. DNA tests have revealed that all possible biological
descendants only come from Emma.
In the past, writers have promoted the idea that Joseph had children
with civilly married women by pointing to resemblances in appearance
between portraits of the Prophet and photos of the supposed
In the modern age, we have more scientific tools at our disposal.
Since the early 2000s, DNA kits have been available to the public
and been used in paternity cases. When father, mother, and child are
all living, scientists can determine with accuracy DNA connections.
When the supposed parents and offspring are dead, the task is more
Dr. Ugo A. Perego, a geneticist, began
working on Joseph Smith’s genealogy. By 2010, he
had used genetic testing to rule out the Prophet’s parentage of
7 boys that were born to legally married women to whom he was
There was one potential offspring that he could not rule
out: Josephine Lyon. Because she was female and didn’t
possess a Y chromosome, the same DNA tests wouldn’t work to identify
One of the claimed descendents of Joseph Smith through a plural wife
was Josephine Rosetta Lyon. She signed a statement in 1915 which
includes the following:
Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to
her bedside and told me that her days on earth were about numbered
and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell me
something she had kept as an entire secret from me and from others
until no but which she now desired to communicate to me. She then
told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she
having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr.
Lyon had was out of fellowship with the Church. (Hales, Joseph
Smith’s Polygamy: Vol. 1: History, p. 350)
Even though her mother suggested that she should consider herself a
daughter of Joseph Smith, that doesn't mean she was biologically
related to Joseph.
As Rex E. Cooper observed, “the statement is unclear
about what it meant to be a ‘daughter of Joseph Smith.’ For
example, because of his mother’s matrimonial sealing to Joseph
Smith, Heber J. Grant was regarded as a ‘son of Joseph Smith’ even
though he was born twelve years after the prophet’s death.”(Promises
Made to the Fathers: Mormon Covenant Organization, p. 144,
footnote 1—cited by Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy: Vol. 1:
History, p. 351)
In June 2015, the descendants of Josephine Lyon contacted Dr. Perego
and requested that he once again test for paternity using advanced
technology. With their cooperation, he again oversaw testing. This
time the results were conclusive: Joseph
Smith was not the father of Josephine. Windsor Lyon, her
mother’s legal husband, was her father.