Mormon History

Son of Joe Embarrassed - 1876

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune August 27, 1876


Young Joe Smith denies that his.
Father Practiced Polygamy --
An Auditor Cites Facts to.
Show he is Wrong.

(From the San Francisco Chronicle.)

Last evening the hall of the Grand Army of the Republic was crowded with a very respectable audience of both sexes who had come together to listen to "Joseph Smith, the President of the Church of Latter-day Saints throughout the world." After the usual introductory singing and praying, Smith commenced by making some general remarks about the Spirit of Truth that were suitable enough for any religious coventicle, and went on to say that the point in which the church he represented, differed from the other religious denominations was in regard to the views which they hold as to the office of this spirit -- in brief, he claimed present revelation. In the closing of his remarks he alluded to the misery of the people in Utah under the blighting influence of polygamy, which he earnestly condemned, and pledged himself to devote his life and labors to free that people from its baneful effects, for it had not only done great wrong to the people, but it had destroyed the faith of many in the divine mission of Mormonism. The Gospel of Christ, he said, and the first faith of the Mormons never required any man or woman to do wrong, nor were they required to surrender their personal individuality of character. These home thrusts at Brigham Young were hugely relished by the audience and were followed with some applause. As the speaker closed and resumed his chair, a gentleman rose and asked if he would be permitted to


And here commenced the most interesting part of the meeting. The subject on his mind was polygamy, and he was anxious to learn if the elder Smith had not been a polygamist, which the younger Smith was now denouncing. The interrogator, who ever he was, spoke quietly and deliberately, like a man who meant to be respectful in manner and determined to be answered. The auditors were evidently greatly pleased with the question, and sat in breathless silence. To this the young "prophet" made answer that he would give his understanding of this subject. He was only 12 years of age when his father was killed, and he could not well know much of domestic life, but from all that he then knew and had since learned he was fully satisfied that his father neither sanctioned polygamy in the relations of others nor practiced it himself. He had heard of much that had been said on the subject charging his father with living in polygamy, but he had never discovered the evidence of it, nor any clue to it that would convince him that his father was a polygamist. There was a buzzing of disapprobation in various parts of the hall as if some thought the young "prophet" was dodging the issue of the question. The interrogator got to his feet again, and in very respectful language expressed what he had to say. He said he first heard the charge of polygamy against the Mormon leaders in London in 1839, which was denied by their missionaries. In 1842 he was in Nauvoo, where the Mormons were living, and heard there the same charge made against their leaders, and which was denied again. He thought that it was exceedingly strange that they should have been charged with polygamy at the time he referred to, and so earnestly and indignantly deny it, and in less than two years afterwards the Mormon leaders should have a revelation


The son of the martyr admitted that these matters were indeed strange, but he would not attempt to explain them now. He did not know what evidence other men may have had that polygamy was established in the Mormon Church during the lifetime of his father, but while he would admit to the singularity of the circumstances, for himself he had no explanation to give, and would leave it to the people of Utah to explain. He would, however, be in the city again in a few days and take that occasion to give his views. The interrogator was not to be put off, and rose a third time to tell what he knew. He referred again to the denials of 1842 that the Mormons were polygamists, and when they threw off the disguise and admitted the fact it was visible to everybody that the leaders were "steeped in it" and had multitudes of wives and he knew of his own knowledge of one man who had three wives in Far West, Missouri, as far back as 1839. He thought it strange that these things should exist among the disciples, and the Prophet -- the father of the young man -- should be ignorant of them. Smith admitted again that these things were indeed strange; but he doubted them being wives as stated by the interrogator, to which the latter pleasantly replied that "whether they were wives or not, they were at least women." Enough had been said and the doxology and a brief word of prayer ended the meeting.

A goodly number of the auditors were from Utah, and richly enjoyed the controversy and the embarrassment of young Smith. Among the auditors was one of Brigham Young's daughters, who is now residing in this city.