Son of Joe Smith Condemns Secret Polygamy - 1907

   Hawaiian Gazette October 22, 1907

Son of Mormon Prophet
Refutes Polygamy Doctrine.

President Joseph Smith of the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints gave an address last evening at the new King street church on "The Utah Apostacy." The church was well filled, there being quite a number of the members of the Utah branch of the church present, besides quite a number from other churches.

The purpose of President Smith's address was to determine that polygamy was never a doctrine taught or tolerated by the prophet, Joseph Smith, nor held in the church during his life-time, nor ever held or taught by any authority recognized by the church, and is, in fact, a heresy, the acceptance of which has amounted to apostacy by the Utah branch of the church.

The church, he said, was organized in 1830. In 1835, was published the Book of Doctrines and Covenants, which was a compilation by a committee appointed for that purpose of all the doctrines and revelations up to that time accepted by the church. The compilation was only published after it had been presented to the general assembly of the church and had received the unanimous approval of all the quorums. In this book under the title of marriage is clearly and unequivocally stated that one man should have but one wife and one woman but one husband, and that marriage is a relation dissolved only by death. In another section of this book it is stated that the church had been reproached with charges of fornication and polygamy, and in refutation of these the position of the church as believing in monogamy is reiterated.

The Book of Mormon, considered a revelation of the word and thought of God and embodying doctrines held by the church, was also quoted from copiously to show that there never was in the early church any thought or tendency toward polygamy. The same doctrine was drawn from the Bible. Revelations received as early as 1831 declared the will of God to be that no man should have more than one wife.

The statement regarding marriage as found in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants published in 1835 appeared in every edition of that book published by any branch of the church until 1876, when for the first time the Utah branch of the church published an edition from which it was stricken out.

President Smith then gave his own testimony if the character of his father as he had known him, and the testimony of his mother on this point, the whole of which went to clear him of the charge that had been made that he did practice polygamy or that he had received or pretended to receive a revelation authorizing it.

Elder F. M. Sheehy said he would remain here some time and would be willing to discuss these matters with anyone at any time.

President Smith and Elder Sheehy will go to Laie on Wednesday, hoping to have an opportunity to address the people there.

Note 1: RLDS President Joseph Smith III's 1907 testimony to the Hawaiian Saints in Honolulu is best understood in the context of the excitement then prevalent on the island of Oahu over the "George Kekauoha Case." In the highly publicized court trial, which commenced on Nov. 6, 1907, the Mormon Elder, George Kekauoha, was charged with adultery under the Edmunds Act. In other words, he was accused of engaging in secret Mormon polygamy. One especially problematic element in this case was that Mormon elders (especially the higher leaders) were regularly discovered to be engaging new "plural marriages" sanctioned by the Mormon Church as late as the first decade of the twentieth century (i.e. after the Second Manifesto," issued by LDS President Joseph F. Smith in 1904). This seems to have been an especially wide-spread practice on the pioneer fringes of the United States, in Canada and in Mexico. Such secret polygamy was finally ended in the Mormon Church at its April 1907 General Conference, when the Church adopted and sustained the LDS First Presidency's pledge abandoning forever the old practice of plural marriage." From that time forward, polygamous members brought to trial before the law were forced to "act on their own responsibility" in their guilt and punishment. BY the fall of 1907 the Mormon Church initiated the disfellowshippings and excommunications of members violating the 1904 "Second Manifesto." Elder George Kekauoha was so unlucky as to have his case brought to trial after the October 1907 LDS Conference had literally pulled the rug out from under the Church's practicing polygamists.

Note 2: The RLDS President's condemnation of secret polygamy in Hawaii was practically his last opportunity to do battle with the LDS leadership over the issue of spiritual wifery, the patriarchal order, or whatever other label might be placed upon LDS sanctioned polygamy. In offering his refutation of the old Mormon doctrine in the King Street RLDS chapel on Oct. 21, 1907, President Smith was implicitly addressing the continuation of secret LDS religious practices traceable back to the Nauvoo era in the Church's history. He was also explicitly defending the honor and veracity of his father and mother in the matter of Mormon polygamy. When Smith stood before the Hawaii Saints and "gave his own testimony" the majority of his audience no doubt accepted that testimony as the divinely authorized utterance of God's Prophet and as having a weight of importance and truth practically equal to the instruction of Jesus Christ himself.