Welcome to JosephsWives.com, a page that has been created to help people better understand the truth about the more than thirty wives of Joseph Smith. We invite you to look through the information we have made available here and see that what we are saying is historical fact, not anti-Mormon rhetoric. And please understand what we are not saying:
We are not saying that Joseph Smith is a false prophet solely based on his polygamous and polyandrous ways.
What we are saying, however, is:
- Historically, it can be shown that Joseph Smith was both a polygamist as well as a polyandrist
- Joseph Smith lied to his original wife Emma about his polygamous ways
- Joseph Smith not only took other men’s wives but also married girls as young as 14.
If these points are all true, Joseph Smith was not the virtuous man many Latter-day Saints may think he was.
Defining our terms
Before we go any further, let’s be sure we fully undertsand the meaning of the terms we will use on this page.
According to Merriam Webster, polygamy is the “state or practice of being married to more than one person at the same time.” Because the “gny” suffix in that word refers to females, we will refer to polygamy as specifically referring to one man marrying–legal or not–two or more women. Meanwhile, polyandry is the “state or practice of having more than one husband or male mate at one time.” Because the “andry” suffix in this word refers to males, this is a specific reference to a woman marrying two or more men.
Joseph Smith’s many wives
Some Latter-day Saints don’t realize that Joseph Smith was married to more than thirty women. Mormon historians certainly don’t doubt this. In fact, we highly recommend you read some of the books that admit this to be true, including:
In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith authored by Mormon Todd Compton (Signature Books, 1997): Compton provides the names of 33 women who were married to Smith, giving complete biographies on each. Probably the best overall historical look at the individual lives of these women.
Nauvoo Polygamy authored by Mormon George Smith a
Mormon Polygamy: A History by Mormon Richard S. Van Wagoner
Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith authored by Mormons Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery (University of Illinois Press, 1994): Using the historical information available on the life of Emma Hale Smith, two researchers wrote a biography on Joseph Smith’s first wife.
Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling authored by Mormon Richard Lyman Bushman
Let’s not spend much time The fact, however, is that this is true. In fact, in 2014, the LDS Church wrote a Gospel Topics essay admitting this. This information can therefore be found on an official church website that you can access here. It reads in part
With that being said, allow us to share with you some facts about Joseph Smith’s many wives:
- Ten of Joseph Smith’s wives were teenage girls –two who were 14 and 2 who were 16. The practice of girls marrying this young was not a normal practice even in the 19th century. And it certainly was a very unusual practice when it is considered that Joseph Smith was an already married man in his mid-30s when he married these girls.
- Joseph married a mother and her daughter – Patty Bartlett Sessions and Sylvia Sessions Lyon. However, the God said in Leviticus 20:14, “If a man take a wife and her mother, it is wickedness: they shall be burned with fire, both he and they; that there be no wickedness among you.” (Also see Lev. 18:17.)
- Joseph married several sets of sisters (Huntingtons, Partridges, Johnsons, Lawrences). However, God said in Leviticus 18:18: “Neither shalt thou take a wife to her sister… to uncover
her nakedness, beside the other in her lifetime” Leviticus 18:18.
- Eleven marriages were to women who had living husbands. All of these married women lived in ongoing ‘polyandrous’ relationships with both their husbands and Joseph Smith.
God said, “The man that committeth adultery with another man’s
wife… the adulterer and the adulteress shall surely be put to
death” Leviticus 20:10.
Marrying married women was also adultery according to Joseph’s own teachings,“If any man espouse a virgin, and desire to
espouse another, and the first give her consent… and they are
virgins, and have vowed to no other man, then is he justified; he
cannot commit adultery for they are given unto him; for he cannot
commit adultery with that that belongeth unto him and to no one
else… But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused,
shall be with another man, she has committed adultery”
Many who know about Smith’s philanderous ways may assume that these women must have been widows or “old maids” and their prophet was doing a favor to them by marrying them. However, the idea that Joseph Smith somehow rescued his plural wives from being single is just not accurate. The fact of the matter is that Smith met the majority of his wives when they were just preteens or teenagers. In fact, about a quarter of Smith’s eventual wives (nine of them) were 12 or younger when Smith met them, even as young as 5 (Sarah Ann Whitney) or 6 (Nancy Winchester). Over the years, Smith nurtured these relationships until he married them, with the vast majority of these marriages taking place between 1841 to 1843. At least a quarter of his wives were no older than teenagers when Smith (who was in his late 30s) married them; the majority of his wives were under 30. Only an eighth of Smith’s wives were older than he was at marriage.
Historian George A. Smith explains,
When the Smiths moved to Ohio in 1831, Joseph there met the majority of his future wives. Most of them were still adolescents—the children of close associates. . . In other words, for a decade prior to Smith’s first plural marriages, he met and established relationships with those who would later become his wives. . . . By the time the Latter-day Saints settled in Illinois, the young women Joseph once met as pre-teenagers had become old enough for him to marry. (Nauvoo Polygamy, pp. 29, 30, 35, 51)
On page 36 of George Smith’s book is a table showing the interval between the first encounter and the Nauvoo marriage:
|Future Wife||Year Met||Age at meeting||Age at marriage|
|Mary Elizabeth Rollins||1831||12||23|
|Elizabeth Jane Davis||1831||40||50|
|Sarah Ann Whitney||1831||5||17|
|Flora Ann Woodworth||by 1841||14||16|
|Helen Mar Kimball||by 1836||8||14|
|Hannah Ells||by 1840||27||30|
|Mary Ann Frost||by 1837||28||34|
|Nancy Winchester||ca. 1834||6||14|
|Phebe Watrous||by 1841||36||38|
Let’s be honest, doesn’t this sound morally wrong? Of course it does. About a third of Joseph Smith’s wives were teenagers when he, a grown man more than twice their age, married them. About a third of his wives were already married to other men. (This is called “polyandry.”) Shouldn’t this information be bothersome?
Many Latter-day Saints have rationalized Smith’s marriages as being nothing more than platonic in nature. This is certainly not true, as even acknowledged by the LDS Church in their October 2014 “Gospel Topics” essay titled “Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo.” This essay–found on an official LDS website–reports that Smith married between 30 to 40 women in marriages that “generally includ(ed) the possibility of sexual relations.” (We encourage you to check out the LDS official site for yourself!) This is in agreement with scholarship. Indeed, “Utah Mormons (including Smith’s wives) affirmed repeatedly that he had physical sexual relations with them—despite the Victorian conventions in nineteenth-century American culture which ordinarily would have prevented any mention of sexuality” (Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 12). And “though it is possible that Joseph had some marriages in which there were no sexual relations, there is no explicit or convincing evidence for this.” (Ibid., 14-15) Mormon historian Richard Lyman Bushman adds that “nothing indicates that sexual relations were left out of plural marriages.” (Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling, 439)
Conjugal relationships would make sense according to the LDS scripture called the Book of Mormon. While God is portrayed in Jacob 2:24 as declaring plural marriage “abominable before me,” verse 30 adds that the practice could only be allowed to “raise up seed [produce children] unto me.” Yet if producing children legitimizes polygamy, why did Smith marry ten women who were already married to living husbands? Couldn’t these men have been satisfactory “seed” suppliers? In addition, Bushman says that “not until many years later did anyone claim Joseph Smith’s paternity, and evidence for the tiny handful of supposed children is tenuous.” If raising up “seed” was the lone exception to polygamy, it seems odd that there is little to no evidence that Smith ever produced children through his martial relationships with these multiple wives.
The Gospel Topics essay then rationalizes, “Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.” The fact is that those in their mid-teens in nineteenth century America rarely married. Even if marriage at this age is legal, this doesn’t make it moral. For instance, while fifteen-year-olds with parental permission are allowed to marry today in the state of Utah, a case could be made that the majority of girls this age are nowhere close to being mature enough—either physically or emotionally—for a lifetime commitment. Besides, few parents today would allow their teen-age daughter to marry someone like Smith who was more than twice her age. In addition, the essay failed to acknowledge that anyunion between a female of any age and a married man in the nineteenth century was illegal in every state, just as it is today!
Be brave and study this issue out. Could it be that Smith was not the “saint” many Latter-day Saints make him out to be? If he was not, then perhaps his words are not as good as gold and his teachings ought to be further scruntinized.
A great blog on this topic called “The Sweet Dream of a Pure-Minded Boy” and written by MRM’s Sharon Lindbloom is found here.
May we suggest that you pick up and read several good books on this topic that will support what I’ve said, including:
In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith by Todd Compton
Mormon Enigma: Emma Hale Smith by Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery
Nauvoo Polygamy: “…But We Called It Celestial Marriage” by George A. Smith
Mormon Polygamy: A History by Richard Van Wagoner
For more on this topic, see MRM’s complete response to the Gospel Topics essay as well as a variety of articles and YouTube videos listed below:
- Is Plural Marriage a Dead Issue in Mormonism?
- Joseph Smith and Polygamy
- Amorous advances by the Mormon prophet
- Plural marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo (Gospel Topics Essay) Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8 Part 9 Part 10 Part 11 Part 12 November 10-25, 2014 Article
- Podcast Plural marriage in early Utah Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 January 28-January 31, 2014
- Podcast Journal of Discourses and Polygamy Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4 Part 5 September 17-21, October 1, 2012
- Lifting the Veil of Polygamy (1:22.42): Polygamy is not just an ancient doctrine that doesn’t have implications for people who live in this system today.
- Joseph Smith as a Sexual Predator (5:41): Sandra Tanner talks frankly about Joseph Smith’s escapades.
- The Stories of the Wives of Joseph Smith (41:09): Many people may be surprised to learn that Joseph Smith had 33 wives, including 10 (or 11) who were married to other men and 11 who were teenagers.
- The Thirty Plus Wives of Joseph Smith (4:11): A list of the women whom Joseph Smith married.
- The Thirty Four Wives of Joseph Smith (56:54): Chip Thompson (Tri-Grace Ministries) talks about the many wives of Joseph Smith at the 2011 Capstone Conference.
Stories of Joseph Smith’s Wives (actresses playing wives of Joseph Smith)__________________
- Story of Louisa Beamon, Joseph Smith’s 4th Wife (1:22)
- Story of Sylvia Sessions Lyon, Joseph Smith’s 8th Wife (1:12)
- Story of Mary Rollins Lightner, Joseph Smith’s 9th Wife (0:51)
- Story of Patty Bartlett Sessions, Joseph Smith’s 10th Wife (1:13)
- Story of Marinda Johnson Hyde, Joseph Smith’s 11th Wife (1:03)
- Story of Elizabeth Davis Durfee, Joseph Smith’s 12th Wife (2:12)
- Story of Sarah Kingsley Cleveland, Joseph Smith’s 13th Wife (1:35)
- Story of Eliza R. Snow, Joseph Smith’s 15th Wife (1:34)
- Story of Sarah Ann Whitney, Joseph Smith’s 16th Wife (0:59)
- Story of Martha McBride Knight, Joseph Smith;s 17th Wife (0:51)
- Story of the Partridge sisters, Joseph’s Smith 20th and 21st Wives (1:49)
- Story of Lucy Walker, Joseph Smith’s 23rd Wife (1:54)
Additional YouTube videos can be found here.