Mormon History

Polygamy in Nauvoo - 1879

The Salt Lake Daily Tribune October 29, 1879


Joseph Smith's Autobiographic History is a valuable lead for an inquirer into the secrets of Mormonism to delve in, but its preparation seems to have caused the prophet no end of trouble. He candidly tells us "there are few subjects that I have felt greater anxiety about than my History, which has been a very difficult task, on account of the death of my best clerks and the stealing of records by John Whitmer, Cyrus Smalling and others." (John Whitmer was one of the eleven witnesses of the Book of Mormon, and a most trusted acolyte -- evidently a good kind of man.) But as Bro. Joseph had so kindly provided us with a source of information, it would be base ingratitude not to avail ourselves of his labors. In some remarks made by the leader of the elect in Nauvoo, Sunday, May 26th, 1844, (a month before his death) he said:

I had not been married scarcely five minutes, and made one proclemation of the Gospel, before it was reported that I had seven wives * * * This spiritual wifeism! why, a man does not speak or wink, for fear of being accused of this * * * A man asked me whether the commandment was given that a man may have seven wives; and now the new prophet (William Law) has charged me with adultery. I never had any fuss with these men until that Female Relief Society brought out the paper (the "Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo!") against adulterers and adulteresses.

At a regular session of the Nauvoo City Council, held June 8th, 1844, the Mayor (Joseph Smith) referred to a writing from Dr. Goforth, showing that the Laws presented the communication from the Female Relief Society in the Nauvoo Neighbor to Dr. Goforth, as the bone of contention, and said if God ever spake by any man, it will not be five years before this city is in ashes and we in our graves, unless we go to Oregon, California or some other place, if the city does not put down everything which tends to mobocracy, and put down murderers, bogus-makers, and scoundrels. All the sorrow he ever had in his family in this city has arisen through the influence of William Law.

This William Law is an important character in Mormon annals:

A fellow almost damned in a fair wife.

In the winter of 1843-44, he is referred to in the prophet's history alternately as a "Brutus" and a "Judas." He seems, however, to have been as scrupulous of his wife's good name as Caesar himself; and was probably about as much a Judas as the prophet was like Christ. But whether William Law was the 'Brutus' and 'Judas' designated by the prophet, or whether Sidney Rigdon was the person meant, does not clearly appear. Indeed, 'twould puzzle a conjuror to gather out the real facts from this labored autobiography of Bro. Joseph, the whole aim of which is evidently how not to give them, or to gloze over the essential facts with falsehood.

It is stated on good authority that at one time, in the height of the troubles growing out of polygamy in Nauvoo, the prophet's wife took refuge with William Law, and threatened her immaculate lord and master that, if he persisted in going with other women, she would take up with Law; that an exchange of marital pertnership between Mr. and Mrs. Smith and Mr. and Mrs. Law was seriously contemplated; and that this is what is referred to in the revelation on polygamy where Emma is commanded to "stay herself, and partake not of that which I commanded you to offer unto her."

At the meeting of the City Council above referred to,

the Mayor said, if he had a City Council who felt as he did, the establishment (referring to the Nauvoo Expositor) would be declared a nuisance before night. * * * They make it, (said the prophet-mayor) a criminality for a man to have a wife on the earth while he has one in heaven, according to the keys of the holy priesthood * * * He said he would rather die tomorrow and have the thing smashed (referring to the Nauvoo Expositor) than live and have it go on

At the same meeting of the Nauvoo City Council,

Councilor Hyrum Smith referred to the revelation read to the High Council of the Church, which has caused so much talk, about multiplicity of wives; that said revelation was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days.

Says the prophet's history, under date of March 9th, 1844:

The Female Relief Society met twice in the Assembly Room, and sanctioned "The Voice of Innocence From Nauvoo," and then adjourned for one week to accommodate others who could not get into the room at either of the meetings.

The sisters were evidently on tip-toe of excitement over the revelation, and did not know what to believe, or whom, in regard to it. "It's a fact," "no, it isn't;" "yes it is;" "there has been a revelation;" "no, there hasn't;" "yes, there has" ---

Is it not sickening, the promise that religion ever formed, or could form. any part in doings and sayings n their very face so shammy and disgusting? What was true of Nauvoo in 1844 is equally true of Utah in the year of grace 1879 -- the same spirit of secrecy and prevarication is dominent to-day. And when will the end of it all be reached? We may safely esay, not until marriages are made honorable in all by being conducted openly and above board. And to this end let the records of these celestial sealings be extorted and brought into open court in any case where they may be required.

The following is taken from the History of Joseph Smith (Deseret News Vol. 7, No. 29.)

The Mayor (Joseph Smith, jr.,) said he had never preached the revelation in private; but he had in publicl and not taught to the anointed in the Church in private, which statement many present confirmed; that on inquiring concerning the passage, in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, etc., he received for answer, men in this life must marry in view of eternity, otherwise they must remain as angels, or be single in heaven, which was the doctrine of the revelation referred to.

But in utter contravention of the above statement, Elder Joseph B. Nobel swears that in the fall of 1840 Joseph Smith declared to him that he had received a revelation from God commanding him to move forward in the said order of marriage, (the celestial or plural order) the prophet adding, "in revealing this to you I have placed my life in your hands, therefore do not in an evil hour betray me to my enemies." -- Deseret News, Oct. 18, 1879.

And Elder Lorenzo Snow "solemnly declares before God and holy angels" that in April, 1843, the prophet Smith did preach polygamy privately to him, telling him that he had already espoused his sister Eliza as a "spiritual."

Now the question here is, as pertaining to this period, who has borne false witness? The prophet, who, according to his history, not quite three weeks before his death "said he had never preached the revelation in private, and had not taught it to the annointed in the church in private," or those disciples male and female, who sewar he did?

The question of veracity in this matter is one which must be crowded home. In a letter to the Deseret News, October 17th, Eliza Snow writes:

If what purports to be Sister Emma's last testimony was really her last testimony, she died with a libel on her lips -- a libel on her husband -- against his wives -- against the truth, and a libel against God; and in publishing that libel, her son has fastened a stigma on the character of his mother that can never be erased.

But if Mrs. Bidamon "died with a libel on her lips," and if the affidavits of these people, recently published in the News, are to be credited, respecting the prophet's polygamous practice, how did the prophet himself die? He declares he had never preached nor had ever taught the revelation in private. In less than three weeks after this declaration he was killed.

Mrs. Emma Smith Bidamon burned (so said Brigham Young in its first public promulgation, in 1852) "the original copy" of the revelation on polygamy. Said Brigham:

The original copy of this Revelation was burnt up; William Clayton was the man who wrote it from the mouth of the Prophet. In the mean time it was in Bishop Whitney's possession. He wished the privilege to copy it, which Brother Joseph granted. Sister Emma burnt the original. The reason I mention this is, because that the people who did know of the Revelation suppose it is not now in existence.

The Revelation is indeed a wonderful piece of patchwork. In it half a dozen hetrogeneous matters are sought to be blended and fused in one. From its own internal evidence it must have been concocted at different periods and, perhaps, by several hands. If Bro. Clayton, who still tabernacles in the flesh, wrote down this disjointed and piecemeal document, continuously, from the mouth of the prophet, just as it now reads, he is in position to say so, and should make his testimony as explicit and detailed as possible. Mrs. Smith Bidamon solemnly avers that there was no such revelation. She may have seen, and she may have burned, some document, long or short, purporting to be a revelation, which excited her wifely suspicion. Such document may have squinted towards polygamy; but that she ever saw this so-called revelation in its present form, and as now put forth, is altogether unlikely.

If Joseph and Hyrum Smith, less than three weeks before they were killed, publicly declared, as they did -- the one (Hyrum) that the revelation which caused so much talk about a multiplicity of wives was simply an answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days; and the other (Joseph) that the revelation was simply an answer to a question concerning marriage in the resurrection, Mrs. Smith Bidamon may be warranted in denying the existence (so far as her knowledge extended) of any revelation concerning a command having been received to practice "polygamy, or spiritual wifery" in our time -- and this is, in substance, what she does deny.

This informal testimony of her husband and brother-in=law, given three weeks before their assassination, tends to confirm the "Last Testimony of Sister Emma." As published, the History of Joseph Smith does not make mention of any other woman as a wife of the prophet, save Emma. But the mystery deepens. 'Tis as good as a play. The Josephite brethren will do a substantial service if they succeed in unravelling the whole matter of this polygamic embroglio, so far as it is mixed up in the minds of the deluded Mormon people with a supposed divine command.

Note: The May 26, 1844 "Address of the Prophet" quoted by Mr. Cobb in the first part of his article was originally published in the Millennial Star. It was subsequently edited and republished in the LDS History of the Church Vol. 6, pp. 408-412

 (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.'.