When the family organization was revealed from heaven—the patriarchal order of God, and Joseph began, on the right and the left, to add to his family, what a quaking there was in Israel. Says one brother to another, "Joseph says all covenants [previous marriages] are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants [marriage by priesthood sealing power]; now suppose Joseph should come and say he wanted your wife, what would you say to that?" "I would tell him to go to hell." This was the spirit of many in the early days of this Church. . . . What would a man of God say, who felt aright, when Joseph asked him for his money? [he would give it all willingly] Or if he came and said, "I want your wife?" "O yes," he would say, "here she is, there are plenty more" . . . Did the Prophet Joseph want every man's wife he asked for? He did not . . . the grand object in view was to try the people of God, to see what was in them. If such a man of God should come to me and say, "I want your gold and silver, or your wives," I should say, "Here they are, I wish I had more to give you, take all I have got." A man who has got the Spirit of God, and the light of eternity in him, has no trouble about such matters."
- Apostle Jedediah M. Grant, second counselor to Brigham Young and father of President Heber J. Grant, sermon delivered on 19 February 1854 (JD 2: 13-14)
Joseph Smith's Failed Proposals to Married Women
John Taylor's Wife, Leonora
"The Prophet went to the home of President Taylor, and said to him, 'Brother John, I WANT LEONORA.'" Taylor was stunned, but after walking the floor all night, the obedient elder said to Smith, "If GOD wants Leonora He can have her." Woodruff concluded: "That was all the prophet was after, to see where President Taylor stood in the matter, and said to him, Brother Taylor, I dont want your wife, I just wanted to know just where you stood."
- Prophet Wilford Woodruff, John Mills Whitaker Journal, Nov. 1 1890; emphasis in original
Heber C. Kimball's Wife, Vilate
“During the summer of 1841, shortly after Heber's return from England, he was introduced to the doctrine of plural marriage directly through a startling test-a sacrifice which shook his very being and challenged his faith to the ultimate. He had already sacrificed homes, possessions, friends, relatives, all worldly rewards, peace, and tranquility for the Restoration. Nothing was left to place on the altar save his life, his children, and his wife. Joseph demanded for himself what to Heber was the unthinkable, his Vilate. Totally crushed spiritually and emotionally, Heber touched neither food nor water for three days and three nights and continually sought confirmation and comfort from God." Finally, after "some kind of assurance," Heber took Vilate to the upper room of Joseph's store on Water Street. The Prophet wept at this act of faith, devotion, and obedience. Joseph had never intended to take Vilate. It was all a test."
- Biography of Heber C. Kimball, "Heber C. Kimball, Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer." By Stanley B. Kimball, page 93.
Orson Pratt's Wife, Sarah
"Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841, Joseph Smith confided to his friend that he was smitten by the "amiable and accomplished" Sarah Pratt and wanted her for "one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness" (emphasis in original). Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett's sewing to Sarah's house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, "Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me." "And is that the great secret that I am not to utter," Sarah replied. "Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will." She added, "I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me." But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, "Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it." "Sister Pratt," the Prophet responded, "I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?" "If you will never insult me again," Sarah replied, "I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it." "If you should tell," the Prophet added, "I will ruin your reputation, remember that."
(Article "Sarah M. Pratt" by Richard A. Van Wagoner, Dialogue, Vol.19, No.2, p.72. Also see: http://www.xmission.com/~country/reason/spratt.htm
William Law's Wife, Jane
"William Law, a former counselor in the First Presidency, wrote in his 13 May 1844 diary: "[Joseph] ha[s] lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and ha[s] found her a virtuous woman" The Laws elaborated on this in a public meeting shortly thereafter. "The Prophet had made dishonorable proposals to [my] wife . . . under cover of his asserted 'Revelation,' " Law stated. He further explained that Joseph came to the Law home in the middle of the night when William was absent and told Jane that "the Lord had commanded that he should take spiritual wives, to add to his glory." Law then called on his wife to corroborate what he had said. She did so and further explained that Joseph had "asked her to give him half her love; she was at liberty to keep the other half for her husband" Jane refused the Prophet, and according to William Law's 20 January 1887 letter to the Salt Lake Tribune, Smith then considered the couple apostates. "Jane had been speaking evil of him for a long time . . . slandered him, and lied about him without cause," Law reported Smith as saying. "My wife would not speak evil of . . . anyone . . . without cause," Law asserted. "Joseph is the liar and not she. That Smith admired and lusted after many men's wives and daughters, is a fact, but they could not help that. They or most of them considered his admiration an insult, and treated him with scorn. In return for this scorn, he generally managed to blacken their reputations--see the case of . . . Mrs. Pratt, a good, virtuous woman."
("Mormon Polygamy" by Richard S. Van Wagoner, page 44)
Hiram Kimball's wife, Sarah
Sarah M. Kimball, a prominent Nauvoo and Salt Lake City Relief Society leader was also approached by the Prophet in early 1842 despite her solid 1840 marriage to Hiram Kimball. Sarah later recalled that
"Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle." ("LDS Biographical Encyclopedia" By Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887)
Sarah Kimball, like Sarah Pratt, was committed to her husband, and refused the Prophet's invitation, asking that he "teach it to someone else." Although she kept the matter quiet, her husband and Smith evidently had difficulties over Smith's proposal. On 19 May 1842, at a Nauvoo City Council meeting, Smith jotted down and then "threw across the room" a revelation to Kimball which declared that "Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil, and formulating evil opinions" against the Prophet, which if he does not desist from, he "shall be accursed." Sarah remained a lifetime member of the Church and a lifelong wife to Hiram Kimball.
- "LDS Biographical Encyclopedia" By Elder Andrew Jensen, 6:232, 1887, Official History of the Church 5: 12-13,
Sidney Rigdon's daughter, Nancy
When Smith proposed marriage in April 1842 to Nancy Rigdon, nineteen-year-old daughter of his close friend and counselor, Sidney Rigdon, he reportedly took her into a room, "locked the door, and then stated to her that he had had an affection for her for several years, and wished that she should be his." Nancy refused him, saying she would only marry a single man. The following day Smith explained in a letter to her: "That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another." He added, "Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof." She remained unconvinced. Nancy, her brother John, and her brother-in-law George W. Robinson testified in sworn affidavits that the Joseph Smith had proposed "spiritual marriage" to her. Smith publicly denied the accusations. ("The Letter of the Prophet, Joseph Smith to Miss Nancy Rigdon," Joseph Smith Collection, LDS archives; History of The Church 5:134-36. Sidney Rigdon Biography, Richard S. Van Wagoner, Chapter 21)
Joseph Smith's Successful Proposals to Married Women
Adam Lightner's wife, Mary
Mary Elizabeth Rollins, already married to non-Mormon Adam Lightner since 11 August 1835, was one of the first women to accept a polyandrous proposal from Joseph Smith. "He was commanded to take me for a wife," she wrote in a 21 November 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells. "I was his, before I came here," she added in an 8 February 1902 statement. Brigham Young secretly sealed the two in February 1842 when Mary was eight months pregnant with her son George Algernon Lightner. She lived with her real husband Adam Lightner until his death in Utah many years later. In her 1880 letter to Emmeline B. Wells, Mary explained: "I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church do not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with." She added on 23 January 1892 in a letter to John R. Young: "I could explain some things in regard to my living with Mr. L[ightner] after becoming the Wife of Another (Joseph Smith), which would throw light, on what now seems mysterious--and you would be perfectly satisfied with me. I write this; because I have heard that it had been commented on to my injury"
(Lightner, Mary E. Statement. 8 Feb. 1902; Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, 21 Nov. 1880; Lightner to John R. Young, 25 Jan. 1892. George A. Smith Papers. Special Collections. University of Utah)
Orson Hyde's Wife, Marinda
Marinda Nancy Johnson, sister of Apostles Luke and Lyman Johnson, married Orson Hyde in 1834. A year before Hyde returned from Jerusalem in 1843, Marinda was sealed to Joseph Smith in April of 1842, though she lived with Orson until their divorce in 1870. Many suspect Joseph Smith was the actual father of Marinda's son Frank Henry who was born on 23 Jan 1845, for two reasons. First, because Marinda had been the polygamous wife of Smith since Apr 1842. Second, because Smith had sent her first husband, Orson Hyde, on a mission to Washington on April 4, 1844 "immediately" after a meeting with Joseph Smith (History of the Church, pg. 286). The gestation period for a human is on average 266 days (not 9 months), which would date the conception to early May 1844. Of course, 266 is an average date and the figures vary. To give you an idea of the range, only four percent of pregnancies are actually carried two weeks or more beyond the average time (Guttmacher, 1983). Frank Henry was born on January 23, 1845. Orson Hyde left for Washington April 4, 1844. The difference in these two dates is 294 days! That is almost a month longer than expected and is basically physiologically impossible, especially considering that Orson Hyde had not returned to Nauvoo until August 6, 1844.
(Andrew Jenson, Church Chronology, August 6, 1844) Marinda later divorced Orson Hyde and voiced her disgust of polygamy.
Windsor Lyon's Wife, Sylvia
Sylvia P. Sessions, married to Windsor P. Lyon, gave birth to a daughter on 8 February 1844, less than five months before Joseph Smith's martyrdom. That daughter, Josephine, related in a 24 February 1915 statement that prior to her mother's 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 which she had kept as an entire secret from me and all others but which she now desired to communicate to me." Josephine's mother told her she was "the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church."
(Affidavit to Church Historian Andrew Jenson, 24 Feb. 1915)
Norman Buell's Wife, Prescindia
Prescindia D. Huntington, a faithful Mormon and married woman in Nauvoo, was also a polyandrous wife of Joseph Smith. Prescindia had married Norman Buell in 1827 and had two sons by him before joining Mormonism in 1836. She was secretly sealed to Joseph Smith by her brother Dimick on 11 December 1841, though she continued to live with her husband Buell until 1846, when she left him to marry Heber C. Kimball. In a "letter to my eldest grand-daughter living in 1880," she explained that Norman Buell had left the Church in 1839, but that "the Lord gave me strength to Stand alone & keep the faith amid heavy persecution." (Mormon Polygamy: A History" by Richard S. Van Wagoner, page 44)
Prescindia, who was Normal Buell's wife and simultaneously a "plural wife" of the Prophet Joseph Smith, said that she did not know whether her husband Norman "or the Prophet was the father of her son, Oliver." And a glance at a photo of Oliver shows a strong resemblance to Emma Smith's boys.
(Mary Ettie V. Smith, "Fifteen Years Among the Mormons", page 34; Fawn Brodie "No Man Knows My History" pages 301-302, 437-39)
Lucinda Morgan Harris, wife of Far West high councilor George Harris, admitted in 1842 that she had been Smith's "mistress since four years," and it is known that she visited Smith while he was incarcerated in Liberty Jail in 1838.
Henry Jacob's Wife, Zina
Prescindia's twenty-year-old sister Zina was living in the Joseph Smith home when Elder Henry B. Jacobs married her in March 1841. According to family records, when Zina and Henry asked Joseph Smith why he had not honored them by performing their marriage, Smith replied that "the Lord had made it known to him that [Zina] was to be his Celestial wife." Believing that "whatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God's authorities bend to the reasoning of any man," the devout Elder Jacobs consented for six-months-pregnant Zina to be sealed to Joseph Smith 27 October 1841. Some have suggested that the Jacobs's marriage was "unhappy" and that the couple had separated before her sealing to Joseph Smith. But, though sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity, Zina continued her connubial relationship with her husband Henry Jacobs. On 2 February 1846, pregnant with Henry's second son, Zina was re-sealed by proxy to the murdered Joseph Smith and in that same session was “sealed for time" to Brigham Young. Faithful Henry B. Jacobs stood by as an official witness to both ceremonies.
("History of Henry Bailey Jacobs." By Ora J. Cannon, page 5-7. also see "Recollections of Zina D. Young" by Mary Brown Firmage)
Zina and Henry lived together as husband and wife until the Mormon pioneers reached Mt. Pisgah, Iowa. At this temporary stop on the pioneer trail, Brigham Young announced that "it was time for men who were walking in other men's shoes to step out of them. Brother Jacobs, the woman you claim for a wife does not belong to you. She is the spiritual wife of brother Joseph, sealed up to him. I am his proxy, and she, in this behalf, with her children, are my property. You can go where you please, and get another, but be sure to get one of your own kindred spirit" (Hall 1853, 43-44). President Young then called Jacobs on a mission to England. Witnesses to his departure commented that he was so emotionally ill they had to "put him on a blanket and carry him to the boat to get him on his way".
("Short Sketch of the Life of Henry B. Jacobs" By Ora J. Cannon)
Henry returned from his mission and settled in California. But he was still in love with his wife Zina, now a plural wife of Brigham Young. Henry's letters to his wife Zina were heartrending. On 2 September 1852 he wrote: "O how happy I should be if I only could see you and the little children, bone of my bone, flesh of my flesh." "I am unhappy," Henry lamented, "there is no peace for poor me, my pleasure is you, my comfort has vanished.... O Zina, can I ever, will I ever get you again, answer the question please." In an undated Valentine he added:
Zina my mind never will change from Worlds without Ends, no never, the same affection is there and never can be moved I do not murmur nor complain of the handlings of God no verily, no but I feel alone and no one to speak to, to call my own. I feel like a lamb without a mother, I do not blame any person or persons, no--May the Lord our Father bless Brother Brigham and all purtains unto him forever. Tell him for me I have no feelings against him nor never had, all is right according to the Law of the Celestial Kingdom of our god Joseph [Smith]." ("Short Sketch of the Life of Henry B. Jacobs" By Ora J. Cannon)
It was the rule rather than the exception for Smith to encourage a polyandrous wife to remain with her legal husband.
Faithful Mormon Joseph Kingsbury even wrote that he served as a surrogate husband for Joseph Smith:
"I according to Pres. Joseph Smith & council & others, I agreed to stand by Sarah Ann Whitney [sealed to Smith 27 July 1843] as though I was supposed to be her husband and a pretended marriage for the purpose of shielding them from the enemy and for the purpose of bringing out the purposes of God." (Elder Joseph Kingsbury, "History of Joseph Kingsbury Written by His Own Hand," page 5, Utah State Historical Society