02 August 2012

Joseph: Takes Plural Wives

Under the Banner of Heaven by Jon Krakauer, 2003, Excerpts

He kept falling rapturously in love with women not his wife. And because that rapture was so wholly consuming, and felt so good, it struck him as impossible that God might possibly frown on such a thing. Joseph continued to take plural wives throughout the 1830s in Ohio and Missouri, and he married with even greater frequency in Nauvoo in the early 1840s, but he did whatever was necessary, including bald-faced lying, to conceal his polygamous behavior – not only from censorious non-Mormons but from all but a select few of his own followers, as well. Between 1840 and 1844 God instructed the prophet to marry some forty women. Most were shocked and revolted when Joseph revealed that the Lord had in mind for them. Several were still pubescent girls, such as fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball.

Nauvoo was closely woven, self-absorbed community that generated a robust flow of gossip. Try as he might, it was impossible for Joseph to conceal so much illicit activity from his followers. Time and again public allegations would be made against the prophet, but he was extremely adept at portraying his accusers as instruments of Satan out to defame not only him, a persecuted innocent, but all of Mormondom. Joseph repeatedly managed to sweep unsavory charges under the rug before irreparable damage could be inflicted – a talent he shared, of course, with many successful religious and political leaders through the ages.

So Joseph kept the fact of his multiple wives a secret and bided his time until the proper moment for revealing the sacred principle had arrived. And then, on July 12, 1843, he formally codified the divine commandment revealing the sacred importance of plural marriage. Unlike the other revelations of this period, it was kept secret and wasn’t acknowledged until 1852, a full eight years after the prophet’s death.

Turn of the century photograph of the entire family of Joseph F. Smith. This picture depicts members of his family, including his sons and daughters, as well as their spouses and children.

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