The Mormon Church has published, "Moreover, since the death of the Prophet Joseph, the history has been carefully revised under the strict inspection of President Brigham Young, and approved by him" (LDS History of the Church 1:v–vi).Click to continue reading:
I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen years ago [when charged with polygamy shortly after his marriage to Emma Hale]; and I can prove them all perjurers. (LDS History of the Church 6:410–411; italics added)
There are a number of points in the sermon which deserve close analysis:
What a thing it is for a man to be accused of ... having seven wives, when I can only find one.
For the last three years I have a record of all my acts and proceedings, for I have kept several good, faithful, and efficient clerks in constant employ; they have accompanied me everywhere, and carefully kept my history, and they have written down what I have done, where I have been, and what I have said; therefore my enemies cannot charge me with any day, time, or place, but what I have written testimony to prove my actions; and my enemies cannot prove anything against me. (LDS History of the Church 6:409)
Unfortunately, Joseph's carefully laid plans to prove his innocence were thwarted by Brigham Young and his followers—for they took Joseph's papers with them to Utah and kept them from the public.
At the death of my father, Joseph W. Coolidge was appointed administrator of the estate.... The private and personal correspondence of my father, many books and some other matters of personal character were in his office in care of [Apostle] Willard Richards, and others, clerks and officials. These were either retained by the administrator upon his own responsibility; or were refused to my mother's demand at the direction of the Twelve; the latter we were at the time led to believe.... In answer to repeated demands for my father's private papers, journal and correspondence, made by my mother, there was an invariable denial. (Edward W. Tullidge, Life of Joseph the Prophet, 744–745)
His private records, biography, portions of history—family and general—manuscripts, memoranda, and parts of his library were all included in this refusal to comply with Mother's request. (Saints' Herald 82 [January 29, 1935]: 144)
Most of the "good, faithful, and efficient clerks" were not good and faithful to Joseph. Some were polygamists themselves, and they rewrote Joseph's history under Brigham's direction to make it appear that Joseph was the author of polygamy.
After Joseph's death, Brigham Young expanded his polygamous base by bringing more and more Saints into the polygamy fold. After he had led his followers to Utah and Joseph had been dead for eight years, Brigham publicly presented to the Saints a mysterious document (Section 132 of the LDS Doctrine and Covenants). He claimed that it was only a copy of an original revelation which Joseph had received. Brigham claimed that he had kept the copy secretly hidden in his desk. He declared:
This revelation has been in my possession many years; and who has known it? None but those who should know it. I keep a patent lock on my desk, and there does not anything leak out that should not. (Supplement to Millennial Star 15 : 31; RLDS History of the Church 3:349)
The mystery which was "had in secret chambers" for years was now made public. That mystery was polygamy! Joseph Smith fought against polygamy all of his public life, but Brigham Young managed to bring it into the Church in spite of Joseph's efforts to keep it out.
February 23, 1880, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, by its attorneys, appeared before the Court of Common Pleas, Lake County, Ohio, (see journal entry, February term, 1880) as plaintiff, asking for possession of the Kirtland Temple, an edifice erected during the early days of the church, and prior to the death of Joseph Smith the Martyr. The church in Utah, then presided over by John Taylor, was named with others as defendants.
"That the said Plaintiff, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints is a Religious Society, founded and organized upon the same doctrines and tenets, and having the same church organization, as the original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, organized in 1830, by Joseph Smith, and was organized pursuant to the constitution, laws and usages of said original Church, and has branches located in Illinois, Ohio, and other States.
That the church in Utah, the Defendant of which John Taylor is president, has materially and largely departed from the faith, doctrines, laws, ordinances and usages of said original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and has incorporated into its system of faith the doctrines of celestial marriage and a plurality of wives, and the doctrine of Adam-god worship, contrary to the laws and constitution of said original Church.
And the Court do further find that the Plaintiff, the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is the True and Lawful continuation of, and successor to the said original Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, organized in 1830, and is entitled in law to all its rights and property."
In a case tried before Judge John F. Philips, in the Circuit Court of the United States, for the Western District of Missouri, Western Division, at Kansas City, Missouri.
In his decision, rendered March 16, 1894, Judge Philips said:
The Book of Mormon itself inveighed against the sin of polygamy.... Conformably to the Book of Mormon, the Book of Doctrine and Covenants expressly declared "that we believe that one man should have but one wife, and one woman but one husband." And this declaration of the church on this subject reappeared in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, editions of 1846 and 1856. Its first appearance as a dogma of the church (the dogma of polygamy) was in the Utah Church in 1852.
Claim is made by the Utah Church that this doctrine is predicated of a revelation made to Joseph Smith in July, 1843. No such revelation was ever made public during the life of Joseph Smith, and under the law of the church it could not become an article of faith and belief until submitted to and adopted by the church. This was never done ....
(History of RLDS Church Vol 5 pp. 238-239)
Thur. Sep. 13/77.
Spent day visiting at Nauvoo, Sister Emma (widow of the Martyr) told me that she remembered Joseph having said in answer to a question from Sister , Mother of the Brothers Brackenbury, as to whether Brigham would not lead the church in case of his (Joseph’s) death,—"I would pity the people that should follow Brigham as a leader," and in answer to another question as to why he would pity them, Joseph answered, "Because He would lead them to hell". She also related that after Brigham came into power in Nauvoo, she sought several times to see him; but did not succeed, and finally sent for him. He came, bringing witnesses with him, and enquired what she wished. She asked him why he was teaching or allowing to be taught the doctrines and practises [sic] he was [spiritual wifery and polygamy], to which he replied he knew of nothing of the kind she referred to, and if she knew of any one indulging in such practises, and would inform on them, they should be taken up and dealt with. She replied, "Why, Brigham you need not talk like that; you know these things are done. It is so plain, that even a stranger can not come and walk through our streets without witnessing it. You know too that Joseph in my presence told you that you had been teaching such things while he was alive, and that he commanded you in the name of the Lord, to teach them no more, or judgments would overtake you." He left and she had no conversation with him afterward (Mark Forscutt’s Diary, pages 81–82).
Further Evidence Supporting Smith's Sermon
Lorenzo Wasson Testified of Bennett's Guilt and Joseph's Innocence
One of Joseph's primary witnesses to his fidelity and Bennett's immorality was Emma's nephew, Lorenzo D. Wasson, a son of Emma's sister, Elizabeth Wasson. Lorenzo joined the Church and lived with his Aunt Emma and Uncle Joseph, where Bennett also boarded. During the summer of 1841, Lorenzo was upstairs in Joseph and Emma's bedroom at the Homestead, and heard Joseph berating Bennett in the room below. The next summer, on July 30, 1842, while on a missionary journey, Lorenzo wrote Joseph these words: "Uncle, ... If I can be of any service in this Bennett affair I am ready. I was reading in your chamber last summer—yourself and Bennett came into the lower room, and I heard you give J. C. Bennett a tremendous flagellation for practicing iniquity under the base pretence of authority from the heads of the church—if you recollect I came down just before you were through talking. There are many things I can inform you of, if necessary, in relation to Bennett and his prostitutes. I am satisfied of your virtue and integrity. I have been with you to visit the sick, and time and again to houses where you had business of importance, you requested me to do so—many times I knew not why, but I am satisfied it was that you might not be censured by those that were watching you with a jealous eye, and I now solemnly protest before God and man, I never saw a thing unvirtuous in your conduct.... I am your most obedient nephew, L. D. WASSON. (Times and Seasons 3 [August 15, 1842]: 892)
Lorenzo was Joseph's faithful attendant in life and in death. In 1843 Joseph was taken prisoner by Sheriff Reynolds of Missouri at the Wasson home in Dixon, Illinois. Lorenzo and his father's quick action provided Joseph with attorneys and prevented Joseph from being taken to Missouri (see Saints' Herald 82 [January 22, 1935]: 112).
It was Lorenzo who hastened to Nauvoo with a message from Emma, bearing the news to the Saints of Joseph's arrest. And alas, it was Lorenzo that Joseph III remembers seeing "covered with dust, bringing the news" that Joseph and Hyrum had been murdered at Carthage (ibid. [January 29, 1935]: 143).After a mock funeral and entombment for Joseph and Hyrum in June of 1844, Lorenzo and others, carefully chosen by Emma, secretly buried the bodies of the Martyrs in the basement of the Nauvoo House (see George Q. Cannon, The Life of Joseph Smith the Prophet, 529–530). Lorenzo refused to follow the leadership of Brigham Young
Eliza R. Snow Latter Followed Brigham Young To Utah and Became His Plural Wife. 2 years before, she vouched Joseph Smith was not polygamist.
Also, the Ladies' Relief Society, with Emma as the president and Eliza Snow as the secretary, made a strong public stand against polygamy. The Relief Society prepared and published a certificate which declared:
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 in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.... Emma Smith President...
Joseph Smith Gave 1831 LDS Doctrine
A revelation received on February 9, 1831, and published to this day in the Utah edition of the Doctrine and Covenants as well as our own, commands: "Thou shalt love thy wife with all thy heart, and shall cleave unto her and none else" (RLDS Section 42:7; Utah Section 42:22).
The following month, March 1831, another revelation contained this language: "Marriage is ordained of God unto man; 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" (Doctrine and Covenants 49:3).
Was Innocent of Polygamy
It is significant that approximately one thousand men voted to adopt the resolution to "manifest to the world" that they knew Joseph to be virtuous, and one who upheld the laws and constitution of the state of Illinois and the United States. Bigamy was a crime in 1842 in the state of Illinois. Therefore, if Joseph had (as the LDS Church teaches) plural wives under the title of celestial marriage, spiritual wifery, or polygamy, he would have been guilty of committing a crime. Joseph was so well known that if he had had several wives, many people would have known it, and there would have been more votes against him.The thousand men knew of Bennett's plural marriage charges against Joseph in the cases of Martha Brotherton, Nancy Rigdon, Sarah Pratt, and others. Yet, they voted that he was moral, virtuous, and law-abiding—a thousand additional testimonies that Joseph was not a polygamist.