Mormon History

Polygamy Revelations of Convenience - 1872

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune February 21, 1872



The history of polygamy is much like what the Mormons claim for their priesthood -- without beginning of days. This is one of the peculiar features of the peculiar institution, and one that is not easily explained.

Mormonism can be but partly known from its written history, from the fact of its being full of falsehoods and trickery, both being acknowledged as legitimate in the introduction of a "divine" system, to a wicked and an adulterous generation. No wonder that "K." became confused in his endeavors to fathom to its depths the mystery of godliness, and finally refer the subject to the Tribune for solution. O, presumptuous Gentile, give heed to the "Lord's" servants while they lift the veil that obscures the secrets of "divine" revelators from the gaze of the giddly and unconverted outsiders who are not prepared to live up to the privileges enjoyed by 'prophets!'

The "Book of Doctrines & Covenants" was accepted by the Mormon church as a rule of faith in the year 1835, but the text quoted by friend "K." has either been altered since 1845, or misquoted purposely by the Editor of the Times and Seasons, a semi-monthly edited and published at Nauvoo by apostle John Taylor, in which the same question is made, but it reads thus, "We believe that one should have BUT ONE WIFE, and one woman but one one husband."

Section 109, on Marriage (being the one referred to) does not claim to be a revelation, but according to Brigham Young's testimony, it was written by O. Cowdery and permitted to be published in the Book of Doctrines and Covenants by Joseph Smith. Now Cowdery, (who by the way, was no less a personage than one of the three witnesses to the divinity of the Book of Mormon) had discovered that the Prophet enjoyed privileges extraordinary, by way of cohabiting with a number of women other than his lawful wife Emma, which, of course, aroused his jealousy, and he, being also one of the first presidency, saw no "just cause or impediment" why so great a blessing should be withheld from himself. Reasoning thusly he took unto himself his servant girl as a spiritual wife with the extraordinary privilege of cohabiting with her during her mundane existence, after the manner of the prophet. The section referred to, then, was written especially for outside effect lest others, who were not prepared to live so "holy" a law, should also become exceeding amorous and covet blessings conferred only upon the higher priesthood.

That polygamy was practiced by the Mormon leaders as far back as 1841, under the saintly title of "Spiritual wifery," there is not the least shadow of doubt. It is equally true that they not only denied it but also denounced it in unmeasured terms, before as well as after the time they professed to have had a revelation commanding its practice, as I will show.

In the Times and Seasons, published Oct. 1st, 1842, there is a list of twenty-six names, including twelve men and sixteen women, who made affidavit to the effect that they knew of no other system of marriage but that published in the D. and C., some of whom, however, about two years since, made another affidavit that they were polygamous wives at that time and that polygamy was practised in Nauvoo. The "revelation," it will be remembered, was not "given" until July 12, 1843, and not made public until 1852, during which time polygamy was both practised and denied by the Mormon leaders. I quote, in proof from the Times and Seasons of Feb. 1st, 1844:

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, this is to notify him and the Church generally that he has been cut off from the church, for his iniquity * * *
      (Signed)          JOSEPH SMITH.
                             HYRUM SMITH.
Presidents of said Church.

This denial, you will perceive, was made some eight months subsequent to the date of the "revelation," and that, too, by the very man who professed to have received it and his brother to whom it had been made known. It was again denied evasively, April 1st, 1844, in a leading article published in the Times and Seasons addressed, "For the Elders Abroad." There it is called "J. C. Bennett's spiritual wife system," thus (after claiming God's sanction) throwing the responsibility of their own disreputable conduct upon others who had become somewhat obnoxious to them.

In the article referred tp, the writer, with his native talent for falsity and deceit says, "We cannot but express our surprise that an Elder or Priest who has been to Nauvoo, should for one moment, give credence to the idea that anything like iniquity is practised, much less taught or sanctioned, by the authorities." Oh, credulous Priests and Elders, to believe such a report! Had you not yet learned that all crime is sanctioned by the Priest's qualification -- the "holy anointing."

That the system of spiritual wivery was a legitimate doctrine amongst the presiding Elders, is evident from the fact that it was practised by Joseph Smith, O. Cowdery, Sidney Rigdon, Jc. C. Bennet, Wm. Smith and others, for it had become a system, as is shown by a passage from an article written by E. M. Webb to the Times and Seasons, wherein he says, "Mr. Rigdon's spiritual wife system was never known till it was hatched by John C. Bennett, who was cut off the church for seduction." Here it will be seen that "spiritual wivery" had found a second author, neither of whom, however were responsible for its existence, but the disgrace was thrown upon their heads to blacken their characters, which was necessary because of their apostacy -- this is a fundamental principle of the Mormon faith.

As to Wm. Smith, the brother of the "Prophet" Joseph, it is a fact well established by his co-laborers in New York and other Eastern cities, that he taught and preached spiritual wife doctrine there, and succeeded in seducing a great number of women, both mothers and daughters, whom he persuaded into the belief that it was a "divine" institution. Bit hear that model Saint on his return to Nauvoo: (I quote Times and Seasons, May 14, 1845.) "Having passed the last two or three years among the eastern churches, in setting them in order, and organizing them according to the pattern laid down; and after having labored diligently in teaching them the true principles of virtue and morality, and building them up in the most holy faith, I have now returned to this city." Is this not putting on a good face, in view of the facts before stated?

It is established by those who were well acquainted with Wm. Smith, and to whom I have before referred, that his conduct in the east, was one of the caused that induced Joseph Smith to give the revelation on "Celestial Marriage," in which he claims that one man only holds the "keys" of that instutution at one and the same time, he himself, of course, being the identical person thus highly favored. This checkmated poor Bill, who could no longer be a rival to his brother, the Prophet, except on his own responsibility, which did not require a very great stretch of a conscience, the tension which had been so thoroughly tested unnumbered times before.

There were other reasons which rendered a revelation eminently necessary (for you know revelations are given in these "last days" to suit circumstances) and Joseph's own conduct unfortunately produced those circumstances. I have before stated that the Prophet was pretty well married spiritually, with extraordinary privileges to gain a foretaste of celestial bliss while in the mundane state. To such an extent had this condition of things grown, that not only were the Gentile dogs around incensed at the general conduct of the saintly elders, but discontent was growing within. This appears on the face of the revelation itself, and I have been credibly informed by men who were then and still are Elders in the Mormon Church that Mrs. Emma Smith caught her prophetic husband in the act of adultery, which statement appears undeniable, if we carefully analyze the revelation, which is nothing but a defence in justification of personal criminality, such as any man would be likely to make under the circumstances -- minus the name of the Lord.

I think the quotation that I shall make from that document will show the above to be facts to any candid mind. I quote:

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, if a man receiveth a wife in the new and everlasting covenant, and she be with another man" (mark you "and I have not appointed unto her by the holy anointing, she had committed adultery and shall be destroyed."

Now, suppose the man with whom she has cohabited holds the "keys," by virtue of which he has the power to administer the "holy anointing," is it not evident that both the man and woman are justified in their criminal intercourse, and was it not for such a purpose that the above clause was written? Again I quote:

"I have endowed him (Joseph) with the keys of the power of this Priesthood, if he do anything in my name, and according to my law, and by my word, he will not commit sin, and I will justify him. Let no one, therefore, set on my servant Joseph, for I will justify him, for he shall do the sacrifice which I require at his hands for his transgressions."

Who, I ask, can doubt the purport of the clause referred to after the literal rendering given in this extract?

There appears to have been something more than a spiritual meaning in the words "and shall be destroyed," used in reference to the woman several times in the "revelation," especially was it used in reference to Emma Smith if she refused to "abide this commandment." Do you ask what commandment? Here its is: "And let mine handmaid Emma Smith, receive all those (women) that have been given unto my servant Joseph, and who are virtuous and pure before me." The penalty of disobedience was death, the enforcement of which was attempted either as a means of intimidation or for a more criminal purpose, or the extract that I will now quote is without meaning:

Verily I say unto you, a commandment I give unto mine handmaid, Emma Smith, your wife, whom I have given unto you, that she stay herself and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her; for I did it, saith the Lord, to prove you all, as I did Abraham, and that I might require an offering at your hands, by covenant and sacrifice.

In order to solve this problem, we have only to ask what was the offering of Abraham. The answer is, 'the sacrifice of a human life.' The counter commandment, "Partake not of that which I commanded you to offer her," is conclusive evidence in itself, and needs no comment, especially when we take into consideration that she was to be "destroyed" if not obedient, which she certainly was not.

Without intruding further on your space, Mr. Editor, I will proceed to answer querry No. 5 -- "What are your opinions on this subject?" Personally, I believe from evidence herein adduced, and many more which time and space forbid me from bringing forward, that polygamy was the offspring of sensuality fostered by deceptions and falsehoods, and sustained by fanaticism and intimidation. I look upon the document purporting to be a "revelation" as a wicked imposture palmed upon the world, in the name of the Lord, for the purpose of legalizing crimes that human nature would be ashamed to commit under less "divine" covering.

But whether a man is a criminal for marrying more than one woman, if the women so desire, or whether the State is justified in making such an act criminal by legislative enactment, are questions with which I have absolutely nothing to do. I should, however, think polygamy vastly more honorable were it practiced independent of the authority of such a glaring imposition as the "revelation" alluded to, as its own internal evidences fully demonstrate, the history of which I will briefly outline.

The original document was burnt by Emma Smith. The only manuscript in existence is an unauthorized copy taken by Bishop Whitney, who threw it in an old rubbish chest where it lay in silent repose for some three years, when it was accidently brought to light by the Bishop when at Winter Quarters, while turning out his box. That such a copy was in existence was entirely unknown to the Church authorities and forgotten by him who procured it and placed it in the chest. This I accept as a very suspicious for a "divine" revelation to possess. It may be, however, one of the mysteries of the Kingdom which none could probably unravel better than Mr. Clayton, to whose lectures I am indebted for the information, and who was the writer of the original.       ITHURIEL.

(Webmaster Note: Mormon Senator Harry Reid would have made a great 19th century Anti-Mormon)

Reid: Polygamous groups are criminal gangs

July 24, 2008

WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- Polygamous groups are criminal gangs that commit welfare fraud and tax evasion as well as sexual abuse, U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said Thursday.

Reid, D-Nev., a Mormon, spoke at the opening of a Judiciary Committee hearing on the communities, the Deseret Morning News reported. He said he was glad the hearing was being held on Pioneer Day, a Utah holiday commemorating the arrival of the Latter-Day Saints in Salt Lake City.

"I am here to tell you that polygamist communities in the United States are a form of organized crime," he said. "The most obvious crime being committed in these communities is bigamy, child abuse -- teen and preteen girls are forced to marry older men and bear their children."

Reid proposed a federal-state task force to police polygamous sects, CNN said. "The lawless conduct of polygamous communities in the United States deserves national and federal action," Reid told the Washington hearing.

Polygamists, including women in long dresses, packed the hearing room. The focus was on law enforcement, and the polygamists did not testify although former sect members did.

Bill Number: S. 3313 (IS)
Bill Title: Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008 (Introduced in Senate)
Sponsor: Sen Reid, Harry   View all legislation sponsored by this member.
Introduced: 2008/07/23
Latest Major Action: 2008/07/23 Referred to Senate committee. Status: Read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary.
Notes: There are no notes for this Bill

S 3313 IS


2d Session

S. 3313

To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.


July 23, 2008

Mr. REID introduced the following bill; which was read twice and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary


To establish a Federal Polygamy Task Force, to authorize assistance for victims of polygamy, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,


This Act may be cited as the `Victims of Polygamy Assistance Act of 2008'.


Congress makes the following findings:

(1) Despite the fact that polygamy has been illegal in the United States for over 100 years, the practice of polygamy involving underage marriages is growing. Sizable polygamist communities exist in Arizona, Utah, and Nevada, and are expanding into other States.

(2) Polygamist communities are typically controlled by organizations that engage in widespread and systematic violations of State laws and the laws of the United States in order to enrich their leaders and maintain control over their members.

(3) The crimes perpetrated by these organizations include child abuse, domestic violence, welfare fraud, tax evasion, public corruption, witness tampering, and transporting victims across State lines.

(4) Due to the systematic and sophisticated nature of these crimes, State and local law enforcement agencies would benefit from the assistance of the Federal Government as they investigate and prosecute these organizations and their leaders for violations of State law. In addition, violations of Federal law associated with polygamy should be investigated and prosecuted directly by Federal authorities.

(5) The work of State and Federal law enforcement agencies to combat crimes by polygamist organizations would benefit from enhanced collaboration and information-sharing among such agencies.

(6) The establishment of a task force within the Department of Justice to coordinate Federal efforts and collaborate with State agencies would aid in the investigation and prosecution of criminal activities of polygamist organizations in both Federal and State courts.

(7) Polygamist organizations isolate, control, manipulate, and threaten victims with retribution should they ever abandon the organization. Individuals who choose to testify against polygamist organizations in Federal or State court have unique needs, including social services and witness protection support, that warrant Federal assistance.


(a) Establishment- There is established within the Department of Justice a Federal Polygamy Task Force, which shall consist of the Deputy Attorney General, the United States attorneys from affected Federal judicial districts, representatives of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Labor, and the Department of Health and Human Services, and any officer of the Federal Government whom the Deputy Attorney General considers necessary to strengthen Federal law enforcement activities and provide State and local law enforcement officials the assistance they need to address the illegal activity of one or more polygamist organizations.

(b) Purposes- The Federal Polygamy Task Force established under subsection (a) shall--

(1) formulate effective responses to the unique set of crimes committed by polygamist organizations;

(2) establish partnerships with State and local law enforcement agencies to share relevant information and strengthen State and Federal efforts to combat crimes perpetrated by polygamist organizations;

(3) assist States by providing strategies and support for the protection of witnesses;

(4) track the criminal behavior of polygamist organizations that cross State and international borders; and

(5) ensure that local officials charged with protecting the public are not corrupted because of financial, family, or membership ties to a polygamist organization.


The Victims of Crime Act of 1984 (42 U.S.C. 10601 et seq.) is amended by inserting after section 1404E the following:


`(a) In General- The Director may make grants as provided in section 1404(c)(1)(A) to State, tribal, and local prosecutors' offices, law enforcement agencies, courts, jails, and correctional institutions, and to qualified public and private entities, to develop, establish, and maintain programs for the enforcement of rights and provision of social services (including witness protection, housing, education, vocational training, mental health services, child care, and medical treatment) for an individual who is exploited or otherwise victimized by practitioners of polygamy.

`(b) Authorization of Appropriations- In addition to funds made available under section 1402(d), there are authorized to be appropriated to carry out this section--

`(1) $2,000,000 for fiscal year 2009; and

`(2) $2,500,000 for each of the fiscal years 2010, 2011, 2012, and 2013.

`(c) False Claims Act- Notwithstanding any other provision of law, amounts collected pursuant to sections 3729 through 3731 of title 31, United States Code (commonly known as the `False Claims Act'), may be used for grants under this section, subject to appropriation.'.


Section 506(a) of the Omnibus Crime Control and Safe Streets Act of 1968 (42 U.S.C. 3756(a)) is amended--

(1) in paragraph (1), by striking `and' at the end;

(2) in paragraph (2), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and'; and

(3) by adding at the end the following:

`(3) $2,000,000, to be granted by the Attorney General to States and units of local government to investigate and prosecute polygamist organizations that violate Federal, State, or local laws.'.