Joseph Smith (1805–1844), founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, taught and practiced polygamy during his ministry, and married multiple women during his lifetime. Smith and some of the leading quorums of the church he founded publicly denied he taught or practiced it.
In 1852, leaders of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (LDS Church) acknowledged that Smith had practiced plural marriage and produced a written revelation of Smith's that authorizes its practice. Smith's lawful widow Emma Smith, his son Joseph Smith III, and most members of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (RLDS Church) attempted for years to refute the evidence of plural marriages. They pointed to the historical record that Joseph Smith publicly opposed the practice of polygamy; the suggestion of the RLDS Church was that the practice of polygamy began in Utah under the leadership of Brigham Young.
The first publication of a list of women alleged to be Smith's plural wives was in 1887, by Andrew Jenson, an assistant LDS Church historian. It included 27 women besides Emma Smith. There are currently 49 women on this list. However, historians disagree as to the number and identity of the plural wives Smith had. Various scholars and historians, including Fawn M. Brodie, George D. Smith, and Todd Compton, have attempted to identify the women who married Smith. The discrepancy is created by the lack of documents to support some of the alleged marriages. As Compton has stated, for many of these marriages, "absolutely nothing is known of [the] marriage after the ceremony." Apart from his marriage to Emma, Smith's marriages were not solemnized under any civil authority and were therefore solely religious unions.
List of wivesEdit
|Age||Recognized by||Marital status at time of sealing||Notes|
|Emma Hale (Smith)
||January 17, 1827||22||Yes||Yes||Yes||N/A||The only woman legally wed to Smith, who he claimed publicly was his only spouse, and the only union known to have produced offspring. Continued church activity within the RLDS Church. Throughout life and on her deathbed she denied that her husband had plural wives. Claimed that the very first time she ever became aware of a polygamy revelation being attributed to Smith was when she read about it in Orson Pratt's periodical The Seer in 1853. Emma Hale and Joseph Smith were sealed together on May 28, 1843.|
|Fanny Alger||c. 1833–1837||16–20||Yes||Yes||Single||Alger's relationship with Smith was attested to by several people, including Emma Smith, Warren Parish, Oliver Cowdery, and Heber C. Kimball. Several Mormons including Benjamin F. Johnson, Heber C. Kimball and Andrew Jenson, and former Mormons Chauncey Webb and Ann Eliza Webb Young, regarded the relationship as a marriage. Compton cites Mosiah Hancock's handwritten report of his father Levi's account of the marriage ceremony of Smith and Alger, and records his father's account of negotiations between Levi and Smith in procuring their respective wives. Compton also notes that nineteenth-century Historian Lawrence Foster asserts a claim that later Mormons may have falsely assumed there was a marriage where there was only a sexual relationship: he views the marriage of Alger to Smith as a "debatable supposition". As Richard Bushman has noted, Smith "never denied a relationship with Alger, but insisted it was not adulterous. He wanted it on record that he had never confessed to such a sin." After Smith's death, when Alger's brother asked her about her relationship with Smith, she replied, "That is all a matter of my own. And I have nothing to communicate." Brian C. Hales documents three possible timelines for Alger's relationship: the relationship starts in 1832-33 and is shortly discovered; the relationship starts in 1832-33 and isn't discovered until 1835-37; the relationship starts in 1835-37 and is shortly discovered.|
|Lucinda Pendleton Morgan Harris||c. 1838–1842||37–41||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||Historians Richard Lloyd Anderson and Scott H. Faulring dismiss this claim as being based on "no solid evidence". Compton notes the following evidence: she is the third woman on Andrew Jenson's 1887 list of Smith's plural wives; Compton writes that "Sarah Pratt reported that while in Nauvoo Lucinda had admitted a long-standing relationship with Smith", though Compton admits that this statement is "antagonistic, third-hand, and late"; and that there is an "early Nauvoo temple proxy sealing to Smith". This marriage was polyandrous, as Lucinda lived with her husband George Washington Harris until about 1853. Compton believes the marriage occurred around 1838, when Smith was living with Lucinda and her husband.|
Quinn gave this sealing a window of year between 1838–1842.
Brian C. Hales notes the following weaknesses in the evidence: Andrew Jenson's notes for Lucinda say "better leave her out perhaps"; the timeline for Sarah Pratt's statement would put the start of the relationship in 1837 which is before Joseph and Lucinda even met. Hales writes "If a plural marriage occurred, I think it would have been in Nauvoo."
||April 5, 1841||26||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(February 7, 1815 – May 16, 1850). Though Mormon history and press indicate Beaman was not baptized until May 11, 1843, she had migrated with Mormons to Nauvoo in 1839 or 1840. She has been called the "first plural wife of the Prophet Joseph Smith". After Smith's death, Beaman remarried, becoming the ninth wife of Brigham Young. Young and Beaman had five children together, all of whom predeceased Beaman, who died at age 35. Listed as a Smith plural wife by Joseph F. Smith, who noted an 1869 affidavit of Beaman's brother-in-law Joseph B. Noble, stating he officiated at the wedding. This would have been prior to her baptism. The marriage was done without informing Joseph's first wife Emma.|
|Zina Diantha Huntington (Jacobs)
||October 27, 1841||20||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||Husband was Henry Bailey Jacobs, who was aware of her plural marriage to Smith. Jacobs wrote, "[W]hatever the Prophet did was right, without making the wisdom of God's authorities bend to the reasoning of any man." Sister of Presendia Huntington. After Smith's death, married Brigham Young while husband Jacobs was on mission to England.|
|Presendia Lathrop Huntington (Buell)
||December 11, 1841||31||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(September 7, 1810 in Watertown, New York – February 1, 1892 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory). Sister of Zina. After Smith's death, married Heber C. Kimball.|
|Agnes Moulton Coolbrith (Smith)
||January 6, 1842||33||Yes||Yes||Yes||Widowed||Widow of Smith's brother Don Carlos. (1808–1876). After Don Carlos died in 1841, Coolbrith married Smith in 1842. Coolbrith was the mother of Ina Coolbrith, who became the first poet laureate of California.|
|Sylvia Porter Lyon
||February 8, 1842||23||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||Daughter of David Sessions and Patty Bartlett Sessions, who married Smith one month after her daughter's marriage to him. On her deathbed, Sylvia informed her daughter Josephine Lyons that she was Smith's daughter, but genetic testing has contradicted this assertion.|
|Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner||January 17, 1842||23||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(April 9, 1818 in Lima, New York – December 17, 1913 in Minersville, Utah). A letter from Mary in 1905 could be read that Smith had a private conversation with her in 1831 when she was twelve years old though in the same statement, she said that Smith didn't talk to her till 1842, |
She left a statement in 1902 of her sealing with Joseph Smith,
In 1835 she married another man, Adam Lightner a non-Mormon. They had two children and she was pregnant with her third at the time she was sealed to Joseph Smith in 1842. After the sealing she continued to live with her first husband Adam. Following the death of Joseph Smith Mary went briefly back to Nauvoo. In the fall of 1844 Brigham Young and Heber Kimball offered themselves to Smith's widows as proxy husbands and Mary accepted Young's proposal. She was sealed to him for time in a proxy marriage on May 22, 1845, though she continued to live with Adam. When Brigham Young and the church left Nauvoo to emigrate to Utah, Mary and Adam stayed behind. They eventually moved to Utah 17 years later settling in the town of Minersville. In her later years she would often supplicate the church for monetary assistance appealing to them on the basis of her connection with Joseph and Brigham. Mary Elizabeth and her sister Caroline were instrumental in salvaging printed pages of the Book of Commandments when the printing press was destroyed by a mob on July 20, 1833.
|Patty Bartlett (Sessions)
||March 9, 1842||47||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(February 4, 1795 in Bethel, Massachusetts (now Maine) – December 14, 1893 in Bountiful, Utah Territory). Her daughter Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyon, who had married Smith one month before, was present at Sessions' wedding to Smith.|
|Marinda Nancy Johnson (Hyde)
||April 1842||27 (16)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(June 28, 1815 in Pomfret, Vermont – March 24, 1886 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory). Wife of Orson Hyde; daughter of John Johnson.|
|Elizabeth Davis (Brackenbury Durfee)
||Before June 1842||50||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(March 11, 1791 in Riverhead, New York – December 16, 1876 in White Cloud, Kansas). According to Anderson and Faulring, this claim is based on Bennett and "an ambiguous statement attributed to Sarah Pratt by the hostile journalist Wyl." The statement made by Sarah Pratt was, "I don't think she was ever sealed to him, though it may have been the case after Joseph's death. . . At all events, she boasted here in Salt Lake of having been one of Joseph's wives" |
|Sarah Maryetta Kingsley (Howe Cleveland)
||Before June 29, 1842||53||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(1788 – April 20, 1856 in Plymouth, Illinois).|
Anderson and Faulring state that this is "only a guess" based on a claim "without any supporting data".
|Delcena Johnson (Sherman)
||Before July 1842||37||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(November 19, 1806 in Westfield, Vermont – October 21, 1854 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory. Widow of Lyman R. Sherman). Married to Almon W. Babbitt after the death of Joseph Smith. Sister to Benjamin F. Johnson and Joel H. Johnson.|
|Eliza Roxcy Snow
||June 29, 1842||38||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Sister of Lorenzo Snow. Organized a petition in summer 1842, with a thousand female signatures, denying Smith a polygamist. As Secretary of the Ladies' Relief Society published a certificate in October 1842 denouncing polygamy. William Clayton said Smith told him in February 1843 that Snow was one of his plural wives. She was married to Brigham Young from 1844 until his death in 1877.|
|Sarah Ann Whitney
||July 27, 1842||17||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Whitney was born in Kirtland, Ohio on March 22, 1825 to Newel K. Whitney and Elizabeth Whitney. Joseph Smith Jr. and Newel Whitney had a very close friendship. According to Brodie, after her parents were introduced to the principle of plural marriage by Smith, the marriage of Sarah to Smith was arranged with her parents' consent. Compton claims this marriage is believed to have been performed for the purpose of creating a "dynastic" link between the Whitney and Smith families in the afterlife and to be "very much a family activity". Nine months after her marriage to Smith, Sarah married Joseph C. Kingsbury in a civil ceremony. Joseph C. Kingsbury said he was "well aware" of this marriage. William Clayton listed her as one of Smith's wives whom he married in early May 1843. She was married to Heber C. Kimball from March 17, 1845 to June 22, 1868.|
|Martha McBride (Knight)
||August 1842||37||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Widow of Vinson Knight; later sealed to Heber C. Kimball.|
|Ruth D. Vose (Sayers)||February 1843||34||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married|
|Flora Ann Woodworth||Spring 1843||16||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||William Clayton listed her as one of Smith's wives whom he married in early May 1843.|
|Emily Dow Partridge
||March 4, 1843||19||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Daughter of Edward Partridge and sister of Eliza. After Smith's death, she married Brigham Young. William Clayton listed her as one of Smith's wives whom he married in early May 1843.|
|Eliza Maria Partridge
||March 8, 1843||22||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Daughter of Edward Partridge and sister of Emily. Eliza married after Smith's death, to Amasa M. Lyman, who was already husband to Eliza's older sister, Caroline. William Clayton listed her as one of Smith's wives whom he married in early May 1843.|
|Almera Woodward Johnson
||August 1843||30||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(October 12, 1812 in Westfield, Vermont – March 4, 1896 in Parowan, Utah). Widow of Samuel H. Prescott. Married to Reuben Barton (with who she had five children) in Nauvoo Illinois in 1845 after the martyrdom of Joseph Smith. Sister to Benjamin F. Johnson and Joel H. Johnson.|
|Lucy Walker||May 1, 1843||17||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Wrote about her plural marriage to Smith, |
|Sarah Lawrence||May 1843||17||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(May 13, 1826 in Pickering Township, Upper Canada – 1872) Sister of Maria.|
|Maria Lawrence||May 1843||19||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(December 18, 1823 in Pickering Township, Upper Canada – ? in Nauvoo, Illinois). Sister of Sarah. After Smith's death, Lawrence married Brigham Young, becoming his sixteenth plural wife. They divorced in 1845, but remarried the following year.|
|Helen Mar Kimball
||May 1843||14||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Daughter of Heber C. Kimball. Helen Mar Kimball wrote a full account of her experience in which she states  |
William Clayton listed her as one of Smith's wives whom he married in early May 1843.
|Hannah Elly||1843||29||Yes||Yes||Unknown||Single||(March 4, 1813 in New York City, New York – 1844 in Nauvoo, Illinois)|
|Elvira Annie Cowles (Holmes)||June 1, 1843||29||Yes||Yes||Yes||Married||(November 23, 1813 in Unadilla, New York – March 10, 1871 in Farmington, Utah Territory).|
||June 12, 1843||58||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(August 8, 1784 in Framingham, Massachusetts – January 17, 1879 in Salt Lake City, Utah Territory). First cousin of Brigham Young, whom she married after Smith's death.|
|Desdemona Wadsworth Fullmer
||July 1843||32||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Born to Peter and Susannah on October 6, 1809, in Huntington, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania. Desdemona was baptized into the Church of the Latter Day Saints herself by John P. Greene in 1836. Desdemona was one of the church members that were present when a mob attacked Haun's Mill on October 30, 1838. She was "secreted in the woods near by", along with members of her family. In July 1842, Brigham Young officiated the marriage of Desdemona to Smith. as Smith took Desdemona as a plural wife and became part of an early group wives taken by Smith After Smiths death, Desdemona married Ezra T. Benson on January 26, 1846, in the Nauvoo Temple The marriage was only "for time", instead of being for "time and all eternity", meaning that Desdemona was sealed to Smith in the afterlife but would be married to Benson until one of them died. Upon her death, a few newspapers outside of Utah reported Desdemona's passing, remembering her as one of Joseph Smith's wives.|
|Olive Grey Frost||poss. September 17, 1843||27||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||(July 24, 1816 in Bethel, Massachusetts (now Maine) – October 6, 1845 in Nauvoo, Illinois). After Smith's death, Frost became the eighteenth plural wife of Brigham Young. They married "for time only" on November 7, 1844, and she bore him no children.|
|Mary Ann Frost (Pratt)
||c. Summer 1843||34||No||Yes||Yes||Married||(January 14, 1809 in Groton, Vermont – August 24, 1891 in Pleasant Grove, Utah Territory). Sister of Olive Grey Frost. First married to Nathan Stearns in 1831 but he died about 18 months later. Baptized into Church of the Latter Day Saints in 1835 by David W. Patten. Married Parley P. Pratt on May 14, 1837, in Kirtland, Ohio. Moved to Missouri and Nauvoo with Pratt. Went on mission trip with Pratt to England in 1840. Returned from England without Pratt and was divorced soon after Pratt's return. Mary Ann was married to Parley Pratt for time and Joseph Smith (posthumously) for eternity on February 6, 1846 by Heber C. Kimball in the Nauvoo Temple.[unreliable source?] Emigrated with the Harmon Cutler Company to Utah Territory in 1852. She obtained a divorce from Pratt in 1853. She was accompanied by her daughter Olivia Pratt (b. 1841) and son Moroni Llewellyn Pratt (b. 1844). They settled in Pleasant Grove.[unreliable source?]|
|Melissa Lott||September 20, 1843||19||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Daughter of early Mormon leader Cornelius P. Lott, who managed Smith's farm in Nauvoo.|
|Nancy Maria Winchester||1842 or 1843||14||Yes||Yes||Yes||Single||Daughter of Stephen Winchester, Sr. of Vershire, Vermont (who was a member of the Danite militia and the Quorum of the Seventy) and his wife Nancy Case of Argyle, New York. Anderson and Faulring write that this claim is based on "unsupported information".|
|Fanny Young (Murray)||November 2, 1843||56||Yes||Yes||Yes||(November 8, 1787 in Hopkinton, Massachusetts – June 11, 1859). Wife of Roswell Murray|
|Mary Houston||Before 1844||No||Yes||Unknown||Unknown|
|Sarah Scott||Before 1844||No||Yes||Yes||Unknown|
|Olive Andrews||Before 1844||No||Yes||Yes||Unknown|
|Jane Tippets||Before 1844||78||No||Yes||Yes||Unknown|
|Sophia Sanburn||Before 1844||No||Yes||Unknown||Unknown|
|Phoebe Watrous (Woodworth)||Before 1844||Unknown||No||Yes||Yes||Unknown|
|Vienna Jaques||Before 1844||Unknown||No||Yes||Yes||Unknown|
|Clarissa Reed Hancock
||March 29, 1833||19||Yes|
|Sally Ann Fuller||Unknown||No||No||Yes||Single||"Fawn Brodie asserts that Mrs. G***** was Sally Ann Fuller Gulley is Sally Ann Fuller Gulley. Sally Ann Fuller did not marry Samuel Gully until January 29, 1847"|
|(Mrs Blossom)||Unknown||Yes||Wife of Edward Blossom|
|Cordelia Calista Morley||Unknown||Yes|
|Nancy Maria Smith||Unknown||Yes|
Allegations of children born to polygamous wivesEdit
Research by Ugo A. Perego, a geneticist and member of the LDS Church, has shown that a number of children of Smith's alleged polygamous relationships were not his genetic offspring. The following table lists some of the children born to Smith's alleged polygamous wives as well as those ruled out by genetic testing:
|Child||Date of birth||Mother||Father (traditionally assumed)||DNA testing status||DNA testing result||Notes|
|Oliver Buell||1838–39||Presendia Huntington Buell||Norman Buell||Completed
|Negative||Historian Fawn Brodie speculated that Buell was a polygamous son of Smith.|
|John Reed Hancock||April 19,
|Clarissa Reed Hancock||Levi Hancock||Completed
|Negative ||Only anecdotal evidence that Clarissa Reed Hancock was a plural wife of Smith.|
|Mosiah Hancock||April 9,
|Clarissa Reed Hancock||Levi Hancock||Completed
|Negative||Only anecdotal evidence that Clarissa Reed Hancock was a plural wife of Smith.|
|Frank Henry Hyde||January 23,
1845 or 1846
|Marinda Johnson Hyde||Orson Hyde||Incomplete||?|
|Orson Washington Hyde||November 9,
|Marinda Johnson Hyde||Orson Hyde||Not possible,
died in infancy
|Zebulon Jacobs||January 2,
|Zina Huntington Jacobs||Henry Jacobs||Completed
|George Algernon Lightner||March 22,
|Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner||Adam Lightner||Not possible,
died in infancy
|Josephine Rosetta Lyon||February 8,
|Sylvia Porter Sessions Lyon||Windsor Lyon||Completed
|Negative||Mother told Josephine on deathbed that she was Smith's daughter.|
|Moroni Pratt||December 7,
|Mary Ann Frost Stearns Pratt||Parley P. Pratt||Completed
- bound edition—"Notice", Times and Seasons, 5(3) (1 February 1844): 423: "As we have lately been credibly informed, that an Elder of the Church of Jesus Christ, of Latter-day Saints, by the name of Hiram Brown, has been preaching Polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines, in the county of Lapeer, state of Michigan."
- Roberts, B. H. (Brigham Henry) (1912), History of the Church, 6, Deseret News, pp. p. 411,
What a thing it is for a man to be accused of committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find one..
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- Her own sworn statement, giving the date as July 27, 1842, was published along with a confirming affidavit sworn by her mother, in Joseph F. Smith Jr.: Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage. It is said that she was the first woman given in plural marriage "by and with the consent of both parents".
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