Subject: Joseph Smith, Menses, Pedophilia, etc.
Date: Aug 09 00:29 2003
Author: TLC
Mail Address:

In our efforts to sort through the wasteland that is Mormon history, (fact vs. fiction) it's worthwhile, at least to me, to have some context within which to make our judgments.

A poster on the other thread derided the notion that the age of sexual maturity among women has changed or is still changing. The statistics are very clear on this however: The age of menarche is dropping in virtually all areas of the world. More on that below.

The other claim being disputed is that Joseph Smith was a pedophile. While it's easy to throw that word around in light of today's problems with child abusing priests in the catholic clergy, the fact remains that pedophilia is defined as: "The act or fantasy on the part of an adult of engaging in sexual activity with a child or children."

Furthermore, the pathology of pedophilia is understood to be an attraction or activity that is limited to prepubescent children. It's been well-established that true pedophiles lose interest almost immediately when a boy or girl exhibits the first signs of sexual maturity.

I don't have access to my library of links on this subject from this computer but a quick Googling of the word pedophilia will take you to the professional community's definitions. They are very clear as to what does and what doesn't constitute pedophilia.

By today's definitions, when it comes to the pathology of pedophilia, Joseph Smith would probably not be considered a true pedophile. That doesn't mean however, that he wasn't a lecherous scumbag who would stop at nothing to bed any young woman who captured his fancy.

More on sexual maturity among women.

As closely as I can tell from investigating the median age of menarche (first menses) in Joseph Smith's time, it is possible that one or two of the girls he married and/or had relations with might not have been sexually mature. All of the research I've been able to find, (and it's not all linked here) indicates that the average age of menarche in the mid 1800s was 17.

What that might tell us about a girl who was 14 or 15 back then is hard to determine because of the nature of averages. In any event, it does make it clear that Joseph Smith was treading a very fine fine when it came to the sexual maturity of the girls he courted and/or married.

There is a lot of research in this arena because of the alarming shift in menarchal age from the 1800s to present day where the median onset of menarche has now dropped to age 12.

2. In 1840, the average young woman in Europe and the United States menstruated for the first time at the age of 17; her modern counterpart reaches the age of menstruation at about 12. Well known to biological anthropologists as the "secular trend," this crash in the age of sexual maturity has proceeded at the rate of four months per decade, and, in most populations, continues.

Boys and girls now experience puberty at younger ages than previous generations. In general, girls enter puberty between ages 8 and 13 and reach menarche (first menstruation) several years later, while boys enter puberty between ages 9 and 14 (436, 529). The reasons for earlier menarche in girls are not well understood. Most of the change is attributed to better health and nutrition (160, 185, 529). In North America age at menarche decreased by three to four months each decade after 1850; in 1988 the median age at menarche was 12.5 years among US girls (160, 529). In some developing countries age at menarche appears to be decreasing even faster. For example, in Kenya average age at menarche fell from 14.4 in the late 1970s to 12.9 in the 1980s (185).

So perhaps more for my own benefit than anyone else's, it helps to understand the context from within which we assess the lecherous scumbag known as Joseph Smith. We don't know if he had sex with prepubescent children, therefore we don't know if he was truly a pedophile. We don't know if the teenaged girls he married and/or had sex with were sexually mature or not.

But regardless of whether they were sexually mature or not, something in us is sickened by the thoughts of them being coerced into any kind of relationship with this lecher who was pretending to use god as his motivator.

Joseph Smith was not the first, nor will he be the last, to prey upon young girls for sexual gratification. And that in no way justifies his actions. But in aiming for accuracy in trying to describe Joseph Smith, there are a lot of words other than pedophile that do the job more saliently and succinctly.

Lecherous scumbag keeps coming to mind for some reason.

What one of us as fathers here today, would hesitate for a second to deck a sumbitch like J.S. if he so much as glanced in any of our daughter's directions? I know that my response would be visceral and swift.

Makes you wonder what kind of men Smith had around him that they would so willingly hand over their young daughters to him. Therein lies the true pathology of mormonism.

Subject: TLC is absolutely correct.. here's a repost on this subject...
Date: Aug 09 16:30
Author: Deconstructor
Mail Address:

Many Mormons leaders and historians suggest that sexual relations and the marriage of Joseph Smith and his youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball, fourteen at the time was "approaching eligibility." There is no documentation to support the idea that marriage at fourteen was "approaching eligibility." Actually, marriages even two years later, at the age of sixteen, occurred occasionally but infrequently in Helen Mar's culture.

Thus, girls marrying at fourteen, even fifteen, were very much out of the ordinary. Sixteen was comparatively rare, but not unheard of. American women began to marry in their late teens; around different parts of the United States the average age of marriage varied from nineteen to twenty-three.

In the United States the average age of menarche (first menstruation) dropped from 16.5 in 1840 to 12.9 in 1950. More recent figures indicate that it now occurs on average at 12.8 years of age. The mean age of first marriages in colonial America was between 19.8 years to 23.7, most women were married during the age period of peak fecundity (fertility).

Mean pubertal age has declined by some 3.7 years from the 1840’s.

The psychological sexual maturity of Helen Mar Kimball in today’s average age of menarche (first menstruation) would put her psychological age of sexual maturity at the time of the marriage of Joseph Smith at 9.1 years old. (16.5 years-12.8 years =3.7 years) (12.8 years-3.7 years=9.1 years)

The fact is Helen Mar Kimball's sexual development was still far from complete. Her psychological sexual maturity was not competent for procreation. The coming of puberty is regarded as the termination of childhood; in fact the term child is usually defined as the human being from the time of birth to the on-coming of puberty. Puberty the point of time at which the sexual development is completed. In young women, from the date of the first menstruation to the time at which she has become fitted for marriage, the average lapse of time is assumed by researchers to be two years.

Age of eligibility for women in Joseph Smith’s timeframe would start at a minimum of 19 ˝ years old.

This would suggest that Joseph Smith had sexual relations and married several women before the age of eligibility, and some very close to the age of eligibility including:

Fanny Alger 16
Sarah Ann Whitney 17
Lucy Walker 17
Flora Ann Woodworth 16
Emily Dow Partridge 19
Sarah Lawrence 17
Maria Lawrence 19
Helen Mar Kimball 14
Melissa Lott 19
Nancy M. Winchester [14?]

Short Bios of Smith's wives:

Did Smith have sex with his wives?:


Coale and Zelnik assume a mean age of marriage for white women of 20 (1963: 37). Sanderson's assumptions are consistent with a mean of 19.8 years (Sanderson 1979: 343). The Massachusetts family reconstitutions revealed somewhat higher mean ages. For Hingham, Smith reports an age at first marriage of 23.7 at the end of the eighteenth century (1972: Table 3, p. 177). For Sturbridge, the age for a comparable group was 22.46 years (Osterud and Fulton 1976: Table 2, p. 484), and in Franklin County it was 23.3 years (Temkin-Greener, H., and A.C. Swedlund. 1978. Fertility Transition in the Connecticut Valley:1740-1850. Population Studies 32 (March 1978):27-41.: Table 6, p. 34).

Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 63; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (NY: Oxford University Press, 1980), 6; Nancy F. Cott, "Young Women in the Second Great Awakening in New England," Feminist Studies 3 (1975): 16. Larkin writes,

Dr. Dorothy V. Whipple, Dynamics of Development: Euthenic Pediatrics (New York: McGraw-Hill, 1966),

Subject: Re: Joseph Smith, Menses, Pedophilia, etc.
Date: Aug 09 01:22
Author: mind
Mail Address:

Tom, a good post and good arguments, IMO. There aren't many names I hesitate to call Joe, but I don't personally classify him as a pedophile because I don't think he actually qualifies.

Subject: Pedophile? Perhaps not. Abuser of girls, women (and men)? Yes, IMO n/t


Subject: Thank you, TLC, for the research and the perspective.
Date: Aug 09 09:23
Author: Marvelous
Mail Address:

It has bugged me when I have seen Joseph accused of pedophilia. As you point out, he is guilty of plenty of sexual misconduct without resorting to this unsupportable charge. And you are right: he was a scumbag. I'll be posting something about this very soon. Got it from a biography on Sydney Rigdon. I am amazed at how brazen he was.

Subject: An additional point TLC
Date: Aug 09 09:35
Author: Switz1
Mail Address:

When my folks moved from Central Illinois to Ark in 54 and then to California in 55 my sister was just 8 and 9. My Mom was shocked to learn that girls in Southern California reached their menarche earlier than girls in Illinois had ever done absent of medical reasons. In Illinois at that time it was 12-15 normally. In California 10-12. The theory was that the difference in climates accounted for the difference in ages.

Subject: And then there's this.
Date: Aug 09 11:48
Author: Stray Mutt
Mail Address:

This has been stated before, but it's probably good to add it to this discussion.

Whatever the average age of menarche might have been in the mid 19th century, the average age of marriage was around 20 for women and 22 for men. And a gap of 15 to 20 years or more between partners was very unusual, not typical. Whatever biology might have to say, according to the mores of his time, several of JS's wives were still mighy young for him.

Subject: Re: And then there's this.
Date: Aug 09 12:16
Author: Burley Refuge
Mail Address:

Today J. Smith would more properly be known as a hebephile, a person who sexually molests post-pubescent persons under the age of 18.

Subject: No doubt he exploited them. Where did you find your age facts?
Date: Aug 09 14:39
Author: Marvelous
Mail Address:

I would have guessed a younger age for the women.

Subject: I often think of Helen Mar Kimball and her heartbreaking story.
Date: Aug 09 12:28
Author: Sobriquet
Mail Address:

Whether Joseph Smith was *technically* a pedophile or not does not change the fact that he robbed Helen Mar Kimball of her adolescence [she was 14] and took away her right to choose a husband. She was practically locked up because JS was afraid of her being around a young man that she had feelings for that was only a couple of years older than she was.

Gawd, it just makes me sick to think about that pig, Joseph Smith! He was nothing but a self-centered, self-serving, narcissist with no conscience whatsoever─a total sociopath, if you ask me. Was I too kind? >:->

Subject: Sorry Sobriquet, Still too kind.
Date: Aug 09 13:07
Author: TLC
Mail Address:

Go back to ze drawing board and see if you can't come up with sumsing less flattering. :-)

Your point is well-taken and spot on. Regardless of the technicalities, J.S. was a lothario. He abused everyone around him; men, women and children. The more closely we look at this man, the more obvious it becomes that he was as you said, a sociopath.

He used people's desire for religious security and comfort to aggrandize himself and satisfy his sexual appetites. I have no doubt in my mind that he knew exactly what he was doing, at least in the beginning. It could well be that as he began to find followers, that he started to believe his own lies and delusions.

Lies repeated often enough can become truth to those who tell them.

It seems to be our sad nature as human beings, to be easily drawn in by a strong and charismatic personality, even when their sordid lives are fully exposed.

Riddle me this: How is it that we throw a man like Tom Green in jail but deify one like Joseph Smith? Their crimes against underage girls were virtually the same.

Subject: If memory serves me right...
Date: Aug 09 14:05
Author: Merchant
Mail Address:

... they DID throw good 'ol Joe in jail a bunch of times. Maybe not for luring young women into bed, but for all-around generalized swindling.

I guess a lot of folks caught on to his deeds early on, of course the 'official' mormon history makes it sound like these folks were jealous, uncooperative locals.

Subject: Re: Joseph Smith, Menses, Pedophilia, etc.
Date: Aug 09 13:42
Author: moonbird
Mail Address:

Thanks for a very well reasoned and researched post.

Given our distaste for the Morg, it is easy to trash Joseph Smith, but I do strive to look at him through the lens of history.

Some say he's a Prophet, some say he's a Scumbag, and the real truth lies somewhere in between. That's what makes him such a fascinating figure.

I also cringe at the thought of JS, while claiming to be a prophet of God, trolling for young women to satisfy his ego. I do believe this was an ego problem, and part of its expression was sexual. He must have become quite delusional in his quest for power. In a way, he was a victim of his own making.

But I really find it sad that the whole notion of polygamy, which stemmed from JS's need to explain his own actions, still has such a hold in the minds of women in the Church. Even though the Church does not practice polygamy today, they still view it as the ideal. And holding that ideal does have an effect on the minds of women in this Church. I have talked to many women who, while they believe that polygamy is the ideal, really struggle with that notion, and rightfully so. And to think that this whole situation arose because of JS's need to explain his leacherous actions with young women, well it just makes me sad for the women in the Church....

Subject: It goes without saying, but I'll say it anyway . . .
Date: Aug 09 14:08
Author: steve benson
Mail Address:

Joseph Smith was a deeply disturbed, psychologically unbalanced, out-of-control, predatory sociopath.

But we all have our shortcomings.

Subject: I agree with your and others' pejoratives, but question sociopath.
Date: Aug 09 14:49
Author: Marvelous
Mail Address:

Perhaps there is more than one definition, but from the psychology I took at your alma mater, a sociopath has no true feelings or regard for others. A sociopath can relate to human beings only as objects. Although some of his actions can be interpreted this way, I believe he often demonstrated genuine warmth and concern for others. Because sociopaths are master manipulators and can mimic these attributes, it can be argued that these moments were fraudulent. I'm inclined to believe he was a super-narcissist. I just don't know. What do you and others think?


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