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LDS Church acknowledges Joseph Smith married underage girl in new essays on polygamy

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Polygamy in Utah around the time of the state's founding. (Image courtesy Utah Dept. of Heritage and Arts collection)

SALT LAKE CITY — In a new series of essays, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints addresses its history of polygamy.

One essay acknowledges LDS Church founder Joseph Smith practiced polygamy, and married a girl who was just shy of her 15th birthday.

“Most of those sealed to Joseph Smith were between 20 and 40 years of age at the time of their sealing to him. The oldest, Fanny Young, was 56 years old. The youngest was Helen Mar Kimball, daughter of Joseph’s close friends Heber C. and Vilate Murray Kimball, who was sealed to Joseph several months before her 15th birthday,” the essay, published on the LDS Church’s website, said. “Marriage at such an age, inappropriate by today’s standards, was legal in that era, and some women married in their mid-teens.”

It also acknowledged that Smith married other men’s wives.

“Joseph Smith’s sealings to women already married may have been an early version of linking one family to another. In Nauvoo, most if not all of the first husbands seem to have continued living in the same household with their wives during Joseph’s lifetime, and complaints about these sealings with Joseph Smith are virtually absent from the documentary record,” the essay states.

READ THE ESSAY ABOUT POLYGAMY IN THE EARLY HISTORY OF THE LDS CHURCH HERE

The essays are the latest in a series of sometimes controversial topics the LDS Church has chosen to address about its history and practices. The church also posted a video about sacred temple garments in an effort to educate people.

READ THE ESSAY ABOUT PLURAL MARRIAGE IN THE LDS CHURCH HERE

The LDS Church no longer practices polygamy and excommunicates those who do. Utah abandoned the practice as a condition of statehood. A federal judge recently ruled part of the state’s polygamy ban violated First Amendment religious freedom rights.

There are an estimated 30,000 people who claim to be “fundamentalist Mormons,” which is a belief system that includes the practice of polygamy.

In one of the essays, the LDS Church acknowledges that it benefited from polygamy in the 19th century.

“For many who practiced it, plural marriage was a trial of faith. It violated both cultural and legal norms, leading to persecution and revilement,” the essay states. “Despite these hardships, plural marriage benefited the Church in innumerable ways.”

70 comments

    • Destiny

      Read my comment, I never said tithing is a bad thing, it’s just not required to receive God’s grace and mercy. While we might receive blessings from God for being faithful with tithing, it will not change our eternal standing with Him. So in otherwords, how you guys believe that you must tithe in order to get to the highest heaven, is completely ridiculous, unfounded and not in God’s character which is shown through His Word, the Bible.

  • RandyMan

    The thing I want to ask whoever wrote this essay is – If it were legal for a man in his 30’s to marry a 14-year old girl today would that make what Warren Jeffs did ok?

  • RandyMan

    Plus if you look at census statistics for that era marriage under the age of 16 was not common, and when they did happen they were most often with men just a few years older than them.

  • Michael John Fisher

    Faith without WORKS is dead. Your faith takes you so far my works take me further. Now read the Bible and listen to the words Paul say about the Celestial and Telestial kingdoms; read the Old Testament and listen to the words the patriarchs say about plural wives. Read the Bible and listen to words of Jehovah; read the words of Jesus when He said ‘I Am that I Am. I Am = Jehovah.

    • Kenny J

      Yes Michael go back and read the Bible:
      1. Isaiah 64:6 your works are filthy rages. In other works menstrual pads. The Bible teaches over and over again that your works don’t save you. Your works are merely an out word expression of a heart for God. I don’t do the dishes so my wife will love me, I love her so I do the dishes. Read Ephesians, Romans, and Galatians then James and see how they all work together.
      2. The Bible teaches Heaven and Hell not 3 degrees of glory, even the Book of Mormon only teaches Heaven and Hell. Taking 1 Corinthians 15 and trying to tweak that into 3 degrees of glory is a huge stretch.
      3. Polygamy was never commanded in the Bible and it actually says not to Deuteronomy 17:17. Just because someone thousands of years ago did something doesn’t mean that it was ok or sanctioned by God.

      The fact that people stand up and try to justify Joseph Smith’s bad behavior is truly disturbing.

  • KJ

    Something that’s cool about the Book of Mormon and LDS faith is that they teach that Jesus Christ visited the people in ancient America. Jesus Christ’s visit and teachings while visiting the American continent are on page 427 of the Book of Mormon. It’ s fascinating to say the absolute least.

    • Gary Gabor Szabo

      oh ya way cool dude, do some research before you open your mouth next time. There has never been or ever will be ANY hard evidence that ANY archeological proof exists for the BOM, it came from the imaginative mind of Joseph Smith who was a money digging, polygamy loving, freemason. You should do some research on that read the History of the Church by Joseph Smith and Journal of Discourses. The truth has already been documented by LDS historians like Richard Bushman in his book: Joseph Smith-A Rough Stone Rolling. But anyway, have fun drinking the Mormon kool-aid and burying your head in the sand further

  • Troy

    I am so glad not to be a Mormon any more. Videos about sacred not secret undies, justifying men marrying little girls and other men’s wives, trying to prove that they are normal by making a movie. Come on Mormons; face it – you are odd and demand we see you as normal.

  • Andrew

    There is no more doubt.
    The Mormon church is nothing more than a multi billion dollar business empire, built on a multitude of deliberately concealed lies and systematic deception, on a criminal scale.

  • Lang Montierth

    Noted historians Gordon S Wood and Howard Zinn have BOTH pointed out that teen brides were NOT ever a standard in American society and that teen marriages were only normal in extremely rural areas or with heavily religious groups. It is such a dishonest statement to try to change history and pretend that a majority of the populace from 1768-2014 were EVER OK with teen brides… I call BS on this essay and ask the writes to re-examine what was popular and what they are trying to make look normal.

  • J

    You Mormons are really something. I gotta give it to you. You built an empire from “teachings” of guys who were pretty much pedophiles and adulterers. Just wow. Hang it up already. There is no planet awaiting your arrival. If there is a God, Joe went STRAIGHT to hell 200 years ago.

  • Oz

    Aside the angry mob here, the article was very unbiased and well detailed, I’m happy the church is more open about this touching subjects, in the end for most of us Jack Mormons and Ex-Mormons the church is still our Heritage and our home, you can get the Child out of the Circus, but not the Circus out of the Child. Good Job whoever did this essay! my respects…

  • The religious regime of Utah

    Alcohol bad. Homosexuality bad. Pedophilia good. Polygamy good. Adultery good. LDS Logic

  • Tired of Bobs BS

    You’ve all accomplished so much by bickering on the internet. I’ll join you. Most of you are cowards. Oops, shots fired! I won’t be back. Guess I’m the coward now. Now get mad and fire fake internet bullets at me! Some of you need to find better things to do. Wasting a lot of energy being hateful. What a shame. Also, this post makes me better than you. Oops, trigger finger slipped.

  • gary

    From John to 1st John it states approx 22 times “whom so ever believeth…”, not how much you tithe to the church…yes,the church needs support from its members…not to get into heaven.

  • Joseph

    Let me get this straight. Your headline says she’s underage, then your article says it was considered normal for the time. Stop the ridiculous exaggerations for the sake of shock factor and views. Guess what? Chinese people built the railroads. Let’s overdo that too.

  • mwawtv

    Many in the LDS church and on line are asking “WHY NOW” is the church acknowledging Joseph Smith married to underage girl in their new essays on polygamy. THE LDS LEADERS and THE CRITICS have these Hard Questions they CANNOT explain in their own scriptures it is called “STUMBLING BLOCKS” 2 Nephi 26:20 now The Answers and stumbling blocks are taken away and given for free at http://www.marvelousworkandawonder.com/js/index.htm

  • JJ

    With the recent video about the temple garment and now this, it is obvious that LDS Church is preparing for the next Presidential Election and a Mormon candidate. Brighamite “scholars” are in no way qualified to speak for the life of Joseph Smith, which is why he has an authorized and official biography that has an appendix addressing the issue of polygamy. The Smith wanted NOTHING to do with Brigham Young, which is why NONE of them followed him west! Its bad enough they dishonored the name and legacy of Joseph Smith by renaming a building that served host to a brothel (Hotel Utah) but now this!
    Spiritual wifery and “sealings” have absolutely nothing to do with marriage and sexual relationships, as evidenced by the absence of offspring from these so-called polygamous marriages!
    • Oct. 11, 1832 – Mormon Missionary Orson Hyde, after visiting a group he calls “Cochranites” describes them in his journal as having a “Wonderful lustful spirit, because they believe in a ‘plurality of wives’ which they call spiritual wives, knowing them not after the flesh but after the spirit, but by the appearance they know one another after the flesh.”
    •“While we were in England, (in 1839 and 40), I think the Lord manifested to me by vision and his Spirit things [concerning polygamy] that I did not then understand. I never opened my mouth to any one concerning them, until I returned to Nauvoo; Joseph had never mentioned this; there had never been a thought of it in the Church that I ever knew anything about at that time, but I had this for myself, and I kept it to myself. And when I returned home, and Joseph revealed those things to me, then I understood the reflections that were upon my mind while in England. But this (communication with Joseph on the subject) was not until after I had told him what I understood—this was in 1841. The revelation [Section 132 in the Utah Doctrine and Covenants] was given in 1843, but the doctrine was revealed before this.” – Brigham Young, Deseret News, July 1, 1874.
    This statement by Brigham Young is very revealing because:
    1. He admits that polygamy was not a doctrine of the Church before 1839 or 1840: This destroys the LDS Church’s official teachings that polygamy was even thought of as a Church doctrine as early as 1831 (see header D&C Section 132);
    2. According to Brigham, Joseph had never even mentioned polygamy as a doctrine before 1841; and
    3. It was Brigham Young who first developed the dogma of polygamy—and that he claimed he did so by Divine manifestation.. His claims places him in the heresy that Hiram Page was involved in by claiming to receive revelation for the church and not being the prophet.
    4. Joseph Smith never expounded on the doctrine until Brigham Young revealed what he deemed to be his understanding. In other words, neither Brigham Young’s nor the other people that embraced polygamy had their free agency impeded during the formation of the church. As with every other doctrine, the early members were given according to the desires of their hearts, so they might stumble in their attempts to counsel the Lord, who had already expressed his views of the practice in the Book of Mormon – “the keystone of the religion”. [Jacob 2:26-27, Mosiah 11:2]

    • John

      Maybe you want to read the essay before you comment. The church admits that some of his marriages were of the sexual variety and not just “spiritual wifery”. Also check the footnotes where they also admit that he likely fathered children with other wives. Nice try though, but the days of fooling people are over. Even church leadership has accepted that reality.

      • JJ

        Those educated from the wrong books are not educated, they are misled. An essay about the conclusions of only one so-called scholar does NOT constitute historical fact! An apologist want the world to believe that Joseph Smith received a revelation that contradicts what is written in the Book of Mormon – “the keystone of religion(Jacob 2:25-26, Mosiah 11:2) and claims it was a requirement for their eternal salvation. Common sense dictates that if it were so important, why wasn’t it immediately written down and presented to the membership during the lifetime of the man who supposedly received it, rather than coming years after his death from someone they know was a polygamist? Anyone with common sense knows that something is afoul when the examples for why polygamy is an abomination given in the Book of Mormon are the same ones given in D&C Section 132 (David’s & Solomon’s wives) for why it isn’t an offense in the eye’s of God. That is a contradiction that can only be explained by the following: “In the final volume (vol. VII), on the final page, of Brigham’s official published History of the Church (DHC), which ‘closes the History of Joseph Smith,’ historians G. A. Smith and W. Woodruff made the following disquieting statement of Joseph Smith: ‘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.’ 8 DHC, 7:242–3″
        The 1835 edition of the Doctrine and Covenants (the only edition approved by Joseph Smith) called polygamy a “crime” (Section 101:4)! Section 132 was not part of the canon until 1876, when Brigham Young had the book edited to suit his purposes. BYU scholars are always going to present a bias that is not going to condemn the man for whom their university is named because the Brighamite brand of Mormonism has absolutely nothing do with what really happened or what was taught by Joseph Smith. The fact that the RLDS never practiced it is further common sense evidence that Joseph never taught such doctrine. Furthermore, the ancestry of those that made claims about Joseph Smith impregnating them were proven false years ago by DNA testing!
        “In my doctrinal teachings I have taught many things not written in any book, ancient or modern, and yet, notwithstanding the many things I have told the people. I have never looked into the Bible, the Book of Mormon, or the Doctrine and Covenants, or any of our church works to see whether they agreed with them or not. When I have spoken by the power of God and the Holy Ghost, it is truth, it is scripture, and I have no fears but that it will agree with all that has been revealed in every particular.” May 21, 1877 – Brigham Young
        BTW, who says everything about the Mormon Church is a fraud in one breathe and then in the next vouches for the credibility of the sources cited in the footnotes from a Mormon historian? True scholarship does not cherry pick.

  • Brenda schloss

    I would like to know what documentation was used to write these essays. What proof is there that Joseph Smith had more than one wife?

  • Smigman

    Why now? Why give up deliberately deceiving people now, after all of these years? Because deliberate deception was simply no longer possible ………In 2013 current Church historian Elder Steven E. Snow did an interview with BYU’s Religious Educator on the topic of Church history. In the interview, Elder Snow admits that church leaders have suppressed information about Church history. He also indicates that they would still be doing so were it not for the internet.

    “I think in the past there was a tendency to keep a lot of the records closed or at least not give access to information. But the world has changed in the last generation — with the access to information on the Internet, we can’t continue that pattern; I think we need to continue to be more open.” From “Truth in Church History: Excerpts from the Religious Educator’s Q&A with Elder Steven Snow”

  • chosha

    A Salt Lake City news source should be reporting more correctly on this. Joseph Smith didn’t marry one teenager. He married nine of them. When you took up this article, it’s misinformation you should have corrected.

  • PoorLDSChurch

    The lack of understanding and knowledge in the essay published under the name of the LDS Church about the Principle of Plural and Celestial Marriage is so apparent and presumptuous that it is very apparent they do not have the Sealing Keys necessary for Celestial Marriage with them or operate with the authority of the Holy Priesthood after the order of The Son of God. Orsen F Whitney, a son of Helen Mar Kimball Smith Whitney, is a son of Joseph Smith.. What does the writer know and understand here? And what is just a political statement like the 1890 manifesto inspired my lucifer below, written by Charles W Penrose and signed by then President Wilford Woodruff? When he signed the statement he signed away his rights to the Celestial Kingdom and acted on its damning immorral vision and kept his youngest wife and sent all his other wives sealed for time and all eternity out to paster in the church membership and plural widows of the manifesto. And with this statement the church is showing and providing away for men to be with wives not their own for immorral purposes.

  • Robert Hodge

    The church benefited from polygamy (and polyandry) “in innumerable ways” The truth is that it has been a curse that has followed them to the 21st Century. In spite of the essays spin the Church loses on this one.

  • Terry G. Taylor

    As I have read the comments on here and seen the lies that are told by you haters I really can’t think of a better expression than this… ” If Jesus was born today into the USA he would be hated and charged with speaking falsehood just as he was back in his time on earth. You people who claim to know him or who hate anything to do with him would hang him from a cross today just as they did back then… Think about that for a minute….

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