[Warning: If you have been directed to this site by a search engine or a well meaning friend but you are not familiar with the doctrine of three watches or the atonement statute, please do yourself a favor and leave this post until you are familiar with these two doctrines. You need to have a foundation before your read the content in this post]
William Law is unlike most of the high profile leaders of the restoration movement in that he was a late comer to the party. Unlike Oliver, David, Martin, Frederick, Sidney, the Pratts and many others who converted to the gospel early on, he was not converted to the gospel until 1836.
It is amazing to realize that he converted AFTER the fullness had been rejected (the fullness of the gospel was rejected by the latter day gentiles sometime between 1831-1834).
William Law did not personally experience the early Pentecostal events in Kirtland. He did not participate in the restoration of the fullness of the priesthood at the Morley Farm.
He missed out on the dedication of the Kirtland Temple
Ironically Law joined the church the same year that Christ and three ministering angels secretly returned to the earth to transfer the keys to the Old Testament Gospel of Abraham to the apostate latter day saint church. This initiated the taking of the written gospel from the gentiles to the house of Israel scattered among the nations of the earth
After his conversion, he stayed in Canada for a while and missed out on the Kirtland Safety Society fiasco and the great apostasy of the Kirtland era and the ugly era of the Danites in Far West.
He finally felt impressed to lead a group of Canadian converts to Nauvoo in 1839.
His brother Wilson who was somewhat skeptical went with him even though he was not a Mormon. (According to some accounts, Wilson may have converted in Nauvoo)
I really appreciate the faith William exhibited in joining the church during a time when vicious rumors about Joseph Smith and the church were beginning to run a muck.
Who Really Started Mormon Polygamy?
In order to fully appreciate the role the William Law played in the Nauvoo era of the LDS foundation movements and his public exposition of Joseph’s involvement in polygamy, one needs to have a clear understanding of what really took place in Nauvoo and whether or not Joseph Smith is the real instigator of the LDS practice of polygamy in Nauvoo.
“Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy”
Joseph Smith obviously fought polygamy during his public ministry but the real question is, was he secretly teaching and practicing it while publicly teaching against it?
There is a semi-compelling book written by Richard & Pamela Price titled: “Joseph Smith fought polygamy” that contends that Joseph smith was innocent of practicing or teaching about polygamy.
Thanks to some popular LDS bloggers who have been impressed with the book, it has picked up some serious traction in convincing a few Latter day Saints that Joseph was innocent of living polygamy or of being the originator of what is now known as section 132.
The contention of the book is somewhat compelling in that Joseph always publicly renounced the doctrine of polygamy during his public ministry. If one goes strictly on what he publicly preached, one must deduce that he never practiced polygamy.
The dilemma is that there is a huge amount of evidence from second hand testimony claiming that he was living a hypocritical, secretive life that contradicted what he was publicly saying from the pulpit.
A Two-Part Conspiracy?
The general premise of the book along with the hypothesis of some who accept the premise of the book, in my opinion, is that there was a grand, two part conspiracy to blame Joseph Smith for introducing section 132 and the doctrine of polygamy when in fact it was really characters like Brigham Young and others that were the culprits.
Part one of the conspiracy in a nutshell is that Brigham Young and his brethren of the apostles were lying when they testified that they had been introduced to the doctrine of polygamy and the eternal nature of spiritual wifery by Joseph Smith.
Brigham supposedly created an elaborate conspiracy and got countless men and women of his followers in Utah to bare a false witness that Joseph was the originator of the doctrine and practice instead of Brigham and others.
In this scenario the hypothesis is that over thirty women who sacrificed much to accept the restored gospel and join the church were enticed into lying about being sealed to Joseph Smith as a spiritual wife and having carnal sex with him. (several other women supposedly lied about being approached by Joseph even though they rejected his offers)
Supposedly their motivation for bearing false witness was for the fame and notoriety of being a wife of Joseph’s or to show their loyalty to the church by obeying the orders of Brigham Young.
For those two reasons, these women supposedly threw the reputation of Joseph Smith under the bus, having to live with the thought of having to face him in the eternities.
If that conspiracy theory seems rather unrealistic, part two of the conspiracy is even more outrageous.
The second part of the conspiracy that supports the contention that Joseph was innocent and never practiced spiritual wifery, is conducted by a host of random conspirators who all personally rejected the doctrine of polygamy and rejected Brigham Young as the legal successor to Joseph Smith.
When I say random, I mean that as a group, they were not united when the great succession crisis took place. They scattered many different directions. There was very little cohesiveness between them. They simply all believed from what they saw and heard that Joseph was the main instigator of Mormon polygamy.
The most notable among them was a group of people in very high church positions including the president of the Nauvoo Stake, three high profile leaders who all served in the First Presidency of the Church with Joseph Smith and two other members of the high council that rejected section 132 when it was read to them:
- William Marks
- William Law
- John C. Bennett
- Sidney Rigdon
- Austin Cowles
- Leonard Soby
None of these high profile leaders accepted the doctrine of polygamy and none of them accepted Brigham young as the legal successor to Joseph Smith. Yet they all testified from personal knowledge of the events taking place in Nauvoo that Joseph was involved.
They all testified from personal knowledge that Joseph Smith was the primary secret promoter of the doctrine of polygamy.
Despite the fact that none of these people had an affinity for Brigham Young or the doctrine of polygamy, every one of these people publicly declared that Joseph Smith was the originator of the polygamy revelation and that he secretly practiced it.
There were many other brethren who also testified of Joseph’s involvement. We will discuss one or two of them as well later in this post, but the above six men create a particularly huge problem with the hypothesis provided by the Prices.
Perhaps one of the biggest holes in the conspiracy theory presented by the Price’s has to do with President William Marks, one of the most honorable, beloved and trusted leaders of the LDS restoration. Marks was called by revelation to be the Stake President of the church in Far West and also in Nauvoo.
At this time I am going to share the content of an email that I have written to Richard and Pamela Price regarding the testimony of William Marks (I am still awaiting their reply):
From: One Whoiswatching <onewhoiswatching [at gmail.com>
Date: Fri, Sep 7, 2012 at 10:27 AM
Subject: Questions about your book “Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy” from the OneWhoIsWatching
To: editors [at] @restorationbookstore.org
Dear Richard and Pamela Price
In reading your book titled Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy I came across a disturbing realization.
In chapter six of volume one you make the following declaration followed by a quote from William Marks that he made in 1859, regarding a conversation he had with Joseph Smith just weeks before the martyrdom:
“Joseph was determined that polygamy was not going to continue in the Church. He was standing firmly between the polygamous conspirators and the Church. Standing with the Prophet were Emma, Hyrum, William Marks, and a few others. Most of the Saints were unaware of the deadly struggle going on behind the scenes. Both sides were growing more determined. When Joseph warned the Saints of iniquity in high places, and turned and spoke against Parley, he was aware that a conspiracy existed—that several apostles and others were planning to make polygamy a practice of the Saints and a doctrine of the Church. However, Joseph was determined to eradicate polygamy, even though he realized that his lack of cooperation with the polygamists could cost him his life.
The struggle between the pro-polygamists and Joseph became more and more severe. A few weeks before Joseph’s death it became apparent to him that polygamy could not be eradicated without bringing the struggle into the open. Therefore, Joseph went to High Priest William Marks, the president of the Nauvoo Stake and president of the High Council, as previously noted. He told Brother Marks that he would bring the polygamists to trial before the High Council, and that President Marks must expel them from the Church. Elder Marks later testified:
‘I met with Brother Joseph. He said that he wanted to converse with me on the affairs of the church, and we retired by ourselves. I will give his words verbatim, for they are indelibly stamped upon my mind. He said he had desired for a long time to have a talk with me on the subject of polygamy. He said it eventually would prove the overthrow of the church, and we should soon be obliged to leave the United States, unless it could be speedily put down. He was satisfied that it was a cursed doctrine, and that there must be every exertion made to put it down. He said that he would go before the congregation and proclaim against it, and I must go into the High Council, and he would prefer charges against those in transgression, and I must sever them from the church, unless they made ample satisfaction. There was much more said, but this was the substance. The mob commenced to gather about Carthage in a few days after, therefore there was nothing done concerning it.
After the Prophet’s death, I made mention of this conversation to several, hoping and believing that it would have a good effect; but to my great disappointment, it was soon rumored about that Brother Marks was about to apostatize, and that all that he said about the conversation with the Prophet was a tissue of lies.’(RLDS History of the Church 2:733) “
The reason I am perplexed by the way you used the above quote from William Marks regarding his conversation with Joseph Smith is that it appears that you intentionally left part of the quote out of your book so that you could put an entirely different spin on what Marks was trying to convey.
Here is what William Marks said just prior to and in conjunction with the portion of his statements that you chose to quote:
“About the first of June, 1844 (situated as I was at that time, being the Presiding Elder of the Stake at Nauvoo, and by appointment the Presiding Officer of the High Council), I had a very good opportunity to know the affairs of the Church, and my convictions at that time were, that the Church in a great measure had departed from the pure principles and doctrines of Jesus Christ. I felt much troubled in mind about the condition of the Church. I prayed earnestly to my Heavenly Father to show me something in regard to it, when I was wrapt in vision, and it was shown me by the Spirit, that the top or branches had overcome the root, in sin and wickedness, and the only way to cleanse and purify it was, to disorganize it, and in due time, the Lord would reorganize it again. There were many things suggested to my mind, but the lapse of time has erased them from my memory. A few days after this occurrence…”
As you can see, the real context of the portion of William Marks testimony that you provided was relative to the fact that the top leadership of the Church, ie, Joseph and Hyrum Smith, had lead the church into apostasy.
Although the contextual statements quoted above do not specifically mention Joseph and Hyrum Smith by name, Marks is stating that it had been made known to him that the “top” and “branches” (highest leadership of the church) had overcome the “root” or remaining members of the church.
Marks was obviously using terminology from the allegory of the tame and wild olive trees in the Book of Jacob that refers to the leading elders of the church. He is pointing out that Joseph and Hyrum, the leading elders of the church, or in other words, the “top” “branches” of the tree had become corrupt and had overcome the rest of the church or at least the lower portions of the church. [See online scriptures here and also the Watcher’s Commentary on those verses here]
Richard and Pamela, why didn’t you include the entire quote and explain that William Marks viewed Joseph and Hyrum as part of the polygamy problem?
The second aspect of this situation that perplexes me is that William’s comments from 1859 that you chose to provide a portion of, were really an outgrowth of a more popular and detailed version of the statement that had been given six years earlier in 1853 in the Zions Harbinger and Baneemy’s Organ.
I am providing this previous quote by William Marks for your perusal below:
“When the doctrine of polygamy was introduced into the church as a principle of exaltation, I took a decided stand against it; which stand rendered me quite unpopular with many of the leading ones of the church… Joseph, however, became convinced before his death that he had done wrong; for about three weeks before his death, I met him one morning in the street, and he said to me, “Brother Marks… We are a ruined people.” I asked, how so? He said: “This doctrine of polygamy, or Spiritual-wife system, that has been taught and practiced among us, will prove our destruction and overthrow. I have been deceived,” said he, “in reference to its practice; it is wrong; it is a curse to mankind, and we shall have to leave the United States soon, unless it can be put down and its practice stopped in the church. Now,’ said he,’ Brother Marks, you have not received this doctrine, and how glad I am. I want you to go into the high council and I will have charges preferred against all who practice this doctrine, and I want you to try them by the laws of the church, and cut them off, if they will not repent and cease the practice of this doctrine.”
As you can see, William Marks was even more explicit in his earlier declaration about the fact that Joseph was involved in polygamy and by Joseph’s own admission; Joseph had been deceived about the doctrine of polygamy.
Were you unaware of the statement by Marks that I have provided above?
Lastly, in your commentary you made the following statement:
“it became apparent to him that polygamy could not be eradicated without bringing the struggle into the open.”
Surely you are aware that the polygamy issue had already been brought out into the open long before that time.
It is well documented that Hyrum had read the polygamy revelation to the High Council in Nauvoo, [told them that his bother Joseph had received and endorsed the revelation and told them that if they rejected it they would be damned.
Hyrum was the sole president of the Church at the time this took place. (Joseph having said he would no longer prophecy to the church that that Hyrum was the sole Prophet and President)]
Hyrum also presented the revelation to the Elders quorum. Virtually all of the leaders of the church knew from Hyrum, the President of the Church, that He and Joseph had secretly taught and practiced polygamy.
I plan on addressing these issues pertaining to your book in a blog but would like to give you the opportunity to respond to them first.
Can you please clarify if you were aware of the remaining portions of the quote you provided at the time you wrote the book?
Were you aware of William Marks earlier comments about Joseph Smith being deceived by the false doctrine of polygamy?
Are you aware that Hyrum had read the polygamy revelation to the Nauvoo High Council and told them they must accept it or be damned?
Thank you for your consideration and for a timely response
I have not had a response to my questions from the Price’s yet nor have they acknowledged getting the email from me. I believe the email address I used is accurate as it is the one currently posted on their website.
I am extremely disappointed that they have not felt compelled to respond.
If I do hear from them in time future, I will update this post with their response.
It appears to me that while doing their research on polygamy, the Prices realized that they needed to maintain William Marks as a credible witness. This is because he is beloved by so many saints from all sides of the issue and was a leading player in the reorganized church they themselves have been involved in.
It appears they wanted to do damage control by quoting only a portion of the less incriminating statement of President Marks, hoping that nobody would bother to delve a little deeper into the declarations William Marks had made regarding his knowledge of Joseph’s involvement in polygamy.
Another related point of interest pertaining to William’s testimony is that it was made known to William that God needed to completely disorganize the church and then organize it again at a future time. (This knowledge obviously played a part in Marks involvement in the “Reorganized Church”. My personal opinion is that the Lord was referring to the Doctrine of the 3rd Watch)
Although I don’t expect those providing passionate commentary, like myself and the Prices, to be non-biased in our presentations, I do expect accuracy, completeness and honesty in providing supporting documentation.
I know from personal experience how tempting it is to leave out portions of quotes that don’t support one’s own contentions. I have been very tempted in this area myself and have possibly been guilty from time to time of cutting and pasting quotes for my own purposes when a greater portion of a quote would provide greater context. It is difficult to know where to draw the line on how much of a quote needs to be used and at what point it deludes the point one is trying to make.
Nevertheless, it seems to me that these issues are clearly over the line of credible research and I find it difficult to believe that the Price’s somehow overlooked the portion of the quote that they neglected to provide in their book.
I also find it very doubtful that they were unaware of the earlier, more complete statement that Marks had published six years earlier.
Nevertheless, there may be a legitimate explanation for the issues presented above.
At this point in time, based on the information I have, I find the statements by William Marks to be a huge problem for the credibility of both the Prices and their research. It makes me feel like a person reading their book needs to go back and research every single quote they provide to see what else they have done to color things to support their views.
Before leaving the topic of the reorganized church (which has since changed its name) I want to point out that William Marks was not the only high profile participant in the “reorganization” that publicly testified of Joseph’s involvement in polygamy.
Although the official response of the RLDS church during the 1880’s to the 1860’s was that Joseph Smith was never involved in polygamy, there are other foundational members of the reorganization who agreed with Marks. Some noteworthy examples are provided below:
Jason W. Briggs
Jason W. Briggs, one of the original founders of the RLDS Church publicly maintained that Joseph Smith was the originator of Mormon polygamy and that God would punish Joseph for his transgression. He felt that the church needed to quit denying Joseph’s involvement , deal with the issue, and move on.
Issac Sheen, the editor of the first official RLDS periodical was another person who publicly admitted that Joseph had been involved in polygamy however, he believed, as did William Marks, that Joseph was in the process of repenting and trying to undo the damage shortly before his death.
James Whitehead, another member of the reorganization who served as a clerk to Joseph Smith III also affirmed that he witnessed Emma give plural wives to Joseph Smith Jr on several occasions. (reference to the above three documented witnesses)
William Marks is not the Most Compelling Witness
Interestingly, the testimony of William Marks is probably not the most devastating and damaging challenge to the supposition being presented by the Richard and Pamela Price, nor are the testimonies of people like William Law, John C. Bennett, Sidney Rigdon, Austin Cowles, Leonard Soby, Jason Briggs, Issac Sheen and James Whitehead.
Interestingly, the optic of polygamy was an issue that didn’t begin in Nauvoo and some of the most credible and revealing testimony of Joseph’s involvement in comes from people like Oliver Cowdery and even William McLellin, how had both left the church by 1838.
Many years later McLellin would write three letters to Joseph Smith the 3rd testifying of Joseph’s involvement. However, even more compelling than those testimonies is the fact that there is hard evidence that Joseph’s own brother publicly introduced the doctrine of polygamy among the leading quorums of the Church in Nauvoo with the declaration that it came from Joseph.
Hyrum Smith Let the Cat out of the Bag
A more damaging testimony that Joseph Smith was involved in Polygamy is actually provided by his brother Hyrum Smith.
There is now a remarkable new book out by John S. Dinger that , in my opinion, completely destroys the myth that Joseph and Hyrum were not involved in polygamy. It brings forth credible historical evidence that has been suppressed and obscured for over a century.
It is called “The Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes”.
These official minutes of the Nauvoo City Council and the Stake High Council have been suppressed for years by the Mormon Church. Their reason for not allowing researchers to have access to them is “confidentiality”. That is apparently what they told John Dinger.
However, it came to the attention of Dinger that copies of these minutes could be obtained via certain Universities so he obtained the information from them and the rest is history… church history.
The book can be purchased from Benchmark Books.
Unfortunately, it is a very expensive book. You may need to take out a second mortgage on your house to purchase it.
You can listen to some interviews about the book with Dinger here and here. Unfortunately the polygamy issue is not addressed in the interviews as in depth as one would desire since most Mormons take for granted that Joseph Smith was involved in it.
In my opinion, this new book provides conclusive documentation that is extremely damaging to the belief that Joseph and Hyrum never practiced or promoted polygamy.
I am actually planning on doing a post in the future that lists numerous fascinating tidbits from the book for those who cannot afford to purchase it but for now, I am simply going to provide a brief summary of the major sequence of events pertaining to polygamy in Nauvoo, most of which are documented in the Nauvoo City and High council minutes along with related historical documents.
In my opinion, the information I am going to summarize from these sources proves beyond question that Joseph and Hyrum did in fact promote the polygamy revelation and doctrine of polygamy.
Sequential Listing of Events Relating to Polygamy
Leading up to the Publication of the Expositor
May 17th 1842
On May 17th 1842 John C. Bennett, a councilor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency, resigned as Mayor of Nauvoo.
He would later claim he was forced under duress to resign as Mayor and to swear an affidavit stating that Joseph never taught a secret doctrine about illicit intercourse with females. In mid June Joseph would make allegations about Bennett and Bennett would go on to write an expose about the secret polygamous practices and other controversial events in Nauvoo (pg 84 &86)
May 19st 1842
With the resignation of John C. Bennett, the purpose of the council meeting on this date was to vote on Joseph Smith as the new mayor. As this election was going forward, Joseph Smith received a revelation, wrote it down and “threw it across the room to Hiram Kimball one of the [city] Councilors. [according to Hiram’s wife, Sarah, Joseph had asked her to be one of his plural wives]”
“Verily thus saith the Lord unto you may servant Joseph by the voice of my Spirit, Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil & forming evil opinions against you with others, & if he continue[s] in them he & they shall be accursed for I am the Lord thy God & will stand by thee & bless thee. Amen.” (pg 84)
May 21st 1842
Although the allegations that would later be made by John C. Bennett about Joseph Smith’s involvement in polygamy were a major concern to Joseph and Hyrum with regard to the non-Mormon population, the Bennett allegations were not their only concern.
William Law and others would do just as much damage within the church by exposing the secret doctrine of polygamy to the main body of the saints.
The beginning of the sequential events that brought Joseph Smith’s involvement in polygamy to light within the church, as documented in the Nauvoo City and High Council Minutes seems to begin on May 21st 1842 when Chancy L. Higbee was brought before the High Council by George Miller on charges of for “unchaste” and “un-virtuous” conduct with the widow Sarah Miller.
It was in this hearing that Higbee testified to the High Council that Joseph Smith had authorized him to have these types of relations if they were kept secret. Hoping to destroy the credibility of Higbee, Hyrum Smith motioned that Chancy Higbee be expelled from the church.
This hearing marked the first of over 20 similar cases that would take place during the next few months with many of them resulting in similar testimony that Joseph Smith and/or the leading brethren of the church had authorized such acts.
(Ironically, Chancy Higbee would ultimately end up violently opposing the doctrine of polygamy and help William Law and others expose Joseph Smith, while his accuser, George Miller, would eventually become converted to the practice and become a polygamist… a rather amazing turn of events.)
Finally, after hearing about 23 similar cases in just a few months and then continuing to hear rumors following that, members of the high council began to have serious suspicions about Joseph Smith’s involvement in secretly teaching and practicing polygamy.
For this reason, they confronted Hyrum Smith in August of 1843 about this issue. (Joseph Smith was home sick. It seems odd that they would not wait to confront Joseph personally however, one must remember that Hyrum was also being implicated and was now the sole President of the Church (even though many people did not give Hyrum the respect of the office still considered Joseph to be God’s mouthpiece) and was therefore responsible to dictate policy and take action against adulterers. Additionally, Joseph was probably keeping a low profile, waiting to see what the reaction to Hyrum’s pronouncement would be.)
On this occasion Councilman Dunbar Wilson “made inquiry in relation to the subject of plurality of wives as there were rumors respecting it, and he was satisfied there was something in those remarks and he wanted to know what it was.”
At this time, Hyrum Smith, who was probably relieved to just get it out in the open, read the revelation on polygamy to the High Council.
After reading it, he made the following declaration: “Now, you that believe this revelation and go forth and obey the same shall be saved, and you that reject it shall be damned”
The reading of this revelation to the High Council followed by the stern warning to obey it, by Hyrum, appears to be the first official documented public outing of Joseph Smith, in front of multiple witnesses, by a credible source, as the instigator of polygamy. It clearly identifies Joseph as the one who received and was secretly introducing the revelation on polygamy. (Although it appears that the original version of the revelation was significantly shorter than the once Brigham Young canonized in 1876)
To Joseph and Hyrum’s horror, the reading of the revelation and the ominous command to obey it or be damned created a veritable shit-storm within the High Council and the members of the church that this knowledge leaked out to.
President William Law, a councilor to Joseph Smith in the First Presidency, joined in with three members of the High Council in openly and publicly rejecting the revelation.
Those three members of the High Council were President William Marks, High Councilman Leonard Soby and High Councilman Austin A. Cowles. (there is conflicting documentation as to whether Soby initially rejected it or not)
The reading of the polygamy revelation has been documented by numerous witnesses including Austin Cowles who published his testimony in the Nauvoo Expositor. From the book, I quote:
“At this meeting Hyrum Smith taught his brother Joseph’s doctrine of plural marriage, as confirmed by statements by those in attendance.”
“Hyrum Smith ‘read the said revelation in the said Council’”.
“[Hyrum Smith] presented to said Council the Revelation on polygamy enjoying its observance and declaring it came from God; unto which a large majority of the Council agreed and assented, believing it to be of a celestial order, though no vote was taken upon it, for the reason that the voice of the prophet in such matters as understood by us to be the voice of God to the church, and that said revelation was presented to said Council as before stated, as coming from Joseph Smith the Prophet of the Lord was received by us as other revelation had been”
Four Other Witnesses from the High Council Signed Afficavits
In 1869 the following members of the high council also signed affidavits that Hyrum read and taught the doctrine of polygamy:
- David Fulmer
- Thomas Grover
- James Allred
- Aaron Johnson
According to the testimony of Charles Smith, Hyrum Smith also read the revelation on polygamy to the Elders Quorum in the winter of 43-44.
Joseph was “outed” before the Nauvoo Expositor was Published
Although William Law is often blamed for being the primary one to “out” Joseph Smith as a practicing polygamist, the truth is that Hyrum and others had already done it.
The resignation and falling out with Bennett and the 23 cases brought before the High Council and the reading of the revelation by Hyrum Smith to the High Council and Elders Quorum culminated in the preliminary outing of Joseph Smith.
June 8 1844
Nevertheless, it appears that when Joseph and Hyrum Smith realized that strong opposition was taking place from other high profile leaders within the church, they attempted to do damage control. (There is even some evidence to suggest that they realized they had been deceived and were repenting of what they had done.)
Hyrum Tells a Little White Lie
On June 8 1844 Hyrum is noted in the City council minutes as stating that when he had previously read the polygamy revelation to the High Council, the revelation only had to do with how polygamy was practiced anciently.
According to the council minutes, “Hyrum referred to the revelation [he] read to the [Nauvoo Stake] High Council- that it was in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days & had no reference to the present time”
Obviously, Hyrum was back-peddling and trying to close Pandora’s Box, but it was too late. The damage had been done and the box was now opened.
One can make a strong case that Joseph and Hyrum realized that they had made a serious doctrinal error and that they were trying to partially repent for what they did.
The declaration of William Marks that Joseph had acknowledged to him that he (Joseph) had been deceived on the doctrine of polygamy is evidence of this. It seems to coincide with William Law’s testimony in the Expositor that Joseph was willing to repent by discontinuing the practice but was not willing to publicly confess what he had done.
Other evidences of a partial repentance are supported by the fact that Joseph abruptly stopped taking plural wives and by the fact that he was also backtracking on numerous other things that he had done, ie, he told his brethren in the secret quorums to take off their special garments, destroy minutes of the council of fifty containing documentation that he had had himself ordained king, etc.
Interestingly, even though many Mormon historians identify April of 1841 as the first documented plural marriage that Joseph entered into, section 124 suggests that Joseph and others were practicing abominations earlier than that:
“by your own works, bring cursings, wrath, indignation, and judgments upon your own heads, by your follies, and by all your abominations, which you practise before me, saith the Lord.” (verse 48)
This is supported by documentation showing that after Orson Pratt returned from his mission to England in 1841 he heard rumors about Joseph Smith’s conduct toward his wife. … According to Sarah Pratt, Joseph had asked her to become his plural wife in the fall of 1840.
Joseph’s journal noted that Joseph was “conflicting with Orson”.
Another evidence of Joseph’s possible involvement in polygamy prior to April of 41 comes from Ebenezer Robinson who recalled the following declaration from Joseph Smith’s younger brother Don Carlos:
“Ebenezer Robinson claimed that Joseph Smith’s brother, Don Carlos, stated: “Any man who will teach and practice the doctrine of spiritual wifery will go to hell, I don’t care if it is my brother Joseph.’ ” (The Return, vol. 2, p. 287 also In Sacred Loneliness 152)
According to Ina Coolbrith Joseph’s brother Don quietly made plans to leave Nauvoo and go back to Kirtland in protest because he opposed the secret doctrine of polygamy.
Coolbrith claims that Joseph asked Don if he had a last request while on his deathbed and that Don’s response was “Yes, I have, Joseph Smith, I want you for the rest of your life to be an honest man”. (there are conflicting stories regarding statements made by Coolbrith)
As alluded to earlier, there are testimonies about Joseph’s involvement in polygamy as early as Kirtland (see Oliver’s Secret)
I could go on providing countless 2nd hand stories about Joseph Smith and polygamy prior to and after April of 42 but there is really no point beyond the evidence provided thus far.
I really just wanted to address the issue because in wrapping up this segment on William Law, I needed to provide documentation that Joseph’s participation in polygamy was really the central issue of the last days of Joseph’s life. (It would also be the hidden but central issue during the succession crisis)
To summarize part two of the conspiracy theory presented by the Price’s, in addition to the countless people in Utah that Brigham Young supposedly got to bear a false witness about Joseph, you still need to deal with all of the other testimonies that we have briefly discussed and the fact that Hyrum read the revelation to the High Council and Elders Quorum.
Here are some of the non-Utah, witnesses that testified that Joseph practiced polygamy:
- Hyrum Smith
- John C. Bennett
- William Law
- Wilson Law
- Sidney Rigdon
- Austin Cowles
- Leonard Soby
- Jason Briggs
- Issac Sheen
- James Whitehead.
- Chancy L. Higbee
- George Miller
- Syvester Emmons
- Francis Higbee
- Robert D. Foster and his brother
- Oliver Olney
- David Fulmer
- Thomas Grover
- James Allred
- Aaron Johnson
- Don Carlos Smith
- Oliver Cowdery
- William McLellin
It seems to me that the conspiracy theory promoted by the Richard and Pamela Price is beyond ridiculous based on all of the testimony from members of the church in Nauvoo that were NOT part of the supposed conspiracy that Brigham Young was leading.
Again, there are high ranking members of the church during the Kirtland era as early as 1836-8 that testified that Joseph was involved in polygamy, the most notable one being Oliver Cowdery and the Fanny Alger affair.
Oliver is not the only high profile leader of the church that left the church during the Kirtland/Far West era that testified of Joseph’s polygamy.
William McLellin, one of the original members of the quorum of the twelve apostles later wrote that Emma Smith substantiated the Smith-Alger affair. According to McLellin, Emma came upon Joseph and Fanny one evening while searching for Joseph. She saw “him and Fanny in the barn together alone” on the hay mow.
McLellin, in a letter to one of Joseph Smith’s sons, added that the ensuing confrontation between Emma Smith and her husband grew so heated that Rigdon, Frederick G. Williams, and Oliver Cowdery had to mediate the situation. After Emma related what she had witnessed, Smith, according to McLellin, “confessed humbly, and begged forgiveness. Emma and all forgave him.”
Now, having presented evidence to support the proposition that both Joseph and Hyrum had been involved in the teaching and practice of polygamy and the spiritual wife doctrine, let me remind any readers who have wondered upon this blog post without having understood about the atonement statute that I am not accusing Joseph of being evil.
I consider him to be a victim/intercessor.
Let’s remember the following warning that the Lord gave Joseph over a decade earlier:
“Satan thinketh to overpower your testimony in this generation, that the [marvelous] work may not come forth in this generation..”
Satan has largely been successful in overpowering Joseph’s testimony and preventing the marvelous work from going forth in that generation. The work was hindered! ( section 10)
One needs to remember that this ugly problem the early brethren having their testimonies overpowered was all foretold in prophecy.
God’s Seers had their eyes covered and their awareness lost. But it was initially brought about because of the wickedness of his people according to Isaiah.
“For behold, the Lord hath poured out upon you the spirit of deep sleep. For behold, ye have closed your eyes, and ye have rejected the prophets; and your rulers, and the seers hath he covered because of your iniquity.”
Ancient prophecy about Joseph Smith foretold that he would be raised up to appoint the place of gathering and build the house of the Lord and do much good but then he would “commit iniquity” and God would “chasten him with the rod of men“.
Nevertheless, according to that prophecy, God’s “mercy shall not depart away from him“.
“If he commit iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But my mercy shall not depart away from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before thee.”
Ancient prophecy about Joseph Smith foretold that after God raised him up to speak all of the words that God commands him, Joseph would then presumptuously teach false doctrine. As a result, Joseph must die.
“I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.
But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die.
And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken?
When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.”
Isaiah speaks of the time when the gospel is taken to the kings of the earth and they are astonished and forced to consider things they had never previously considered when the Lords servant returns to gather the people and is exalted and extolled despite having had a tarnished reputation that was worse than any other reputation of any other human being…
“ Behold, my servant shall deal prudently, he shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high.
As many were [astonished] at thee; his visage [reputation] was so marred more than any man, and his form more than the sons of men:
So shall he [gather] many nations; the kings shall shut their mouths at him: for that which had not been told them shall they see; and that which they had not heard shall they consider.”
The above scenario is consistent with the following prophetic passages in section 101 in the parable of the importuning of the judges, governors and rulers who are having to consider things they had never considered when the strange act goes forth.
“And if the president heed them not, then will the Lord arise and come forth out of his hiding place, and in his fury vex the nation;
And in his hot displeasure, and in his fierce anger, in his time, will cut off those wicked, unfaithful, and unjust stewards, and appoint them their portion among hypocrites, and unbelievers;
Even in outer darkness, where there is weeping, and wailing, and gnashing of teeth.
Pray ye, therefore, that their ears may be opened unto your cries, that I may be merciful unto them, that these things may not come upon them.
What I have said unto you must needs be, that all men may be left without excuse;
That wise men and rulers may hear and know that which they have never considered;
That I may proceed to bring to pass my act, my strange act, and perform my work, my strange work, that men may discern between the righteous and the wicked, saith your God.”
Realizing that God used people as his “chastising rod” to put Joseph and Hyrum to death for speaking and teaching presumptuously, it becomes apparent that those directly and indirectly involved in the death of Joseph and Hyrum were essentially being inspired to be God’s avenging sword of justice.
Just as Brigham Young became the prophetic “hand of a fit man” that led the scapegoat Sidney Rigdon into the wilderness, William Law played a valiant role in identifying when God’s servant like Moses, spoke “presumptuously“, so that the chastising rod of God’s justice could punish the intercessory atonement offering servant.
The second prophetic role that William Law played had to do with another prophecy that had been given over a decade earlier.
The Opportunity for the Church to Reform
|In March of 1829 the Lord declared that:“if the people… harden not their hearts, I will work a reformation among them..” (B of C 4:5)|
|In an un-canonized revelation given on December 5th 1834 the Lord declared:“..there must needs be a repentance and a reformation among you, in all things..”(Unpublished Revelations pg 73)|
|In a discourse given July 16th 1843 Joseph’s diary saye:“…went to the Grove and heard Pres. J. preach on the law of the priesthood. He stated that Hyrum held the office of prophet to the church by birth-right & he was going to have a reformation and the saints must regard Hyrum for he had authority.” (WofJS pg 232-3 July 16th 1843 see also boap) Joseph was openly acknowledging that the saints were in a state of apostasy and he was pointing to his brother Hyrum as the sole prophet of the church with the authority to conduct the reformation of the saints. Obviously, this was during the time that Joseph and Hyrum were secretly practicing the secret wife doctrine. It was one month before Hyrum read the revelation to the High Council.|
The above quotes establish the following facts:
1- God had prophesied of a future opportunity to reform the apostate church, before it was even officially organized and restored
2- Years later the Lord acknowledged that it was time to have reformation
3- Eventually Joseph acknowledged that there needed to be a reformation and said that Hyrum, as the sole President of the Church must do it.
William Law Fulfills the Prophecy
Amazingly, William Law is the one that God had prophetically ordained to offer the true reformation of the church.
As a member of the First Presidency, led the cause.
He and a few close associates actually broke away from the apostate church and formed the “Reformed Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints”!!!
They invite all of the saints to repent and reform.
Here are a few statements from the Expositor-“We are earnestly seeking to explode the vicious principles of Joseph Smith, and those who practice the same abominations and whoredoms; which we verily know are not accordant and consonant with the principles of Jesus Christ and the Apostles; and for that purpose, and with that end in view, with an eye single to the glory of God, we have dared to gird on the armor, and with God at our head, we most solemnly and sincerely declare that the sword of truth shall not depart from the thigh, nor the buckler from the arm, until we can enjoy those glorious privileges which nature’s God and our country’s laws have guarantied to us-freedom of speech, the liberty of the press, and the right to worship God as seemeth us good.-
We are aware, however, that we are hazarding every earthly blessing, particularly property, and probably life itself, in striking this blow at tyranny and oppression: yet notwithstanding we most solemnly declare that no man, or set of men combined, shall, with impunity, violate obligations as sacred as many which have been violated unless reason, justice and virtue have become ashamed and sought the haunts of the grave, though our lives be the forfeiture.
Many of us have sought a reformation in the church, without a public exposition of the enormities of crimes practiced by its leaders, thinking that if they would hearken to counsel, and shew fruit meet for repentance, it would be as acceptable with God, as though they were exposed to public gaze,“For the private path, the secret acts of men,
If noble, for the noblest of their lives.
..but our petitions were treated with contempt; and in many cases the petitioner spurned from their presence and particularly by Joseph, who would state that if he had sinned, and was guilty of the charges we would charge him with, he would not make acknowledgment, but would rather be damned; for it would detract from his dignity, and would consequently ruin and prove the overthrow of the Church.
We would ask him on the other hand, if the overthrow of the Church was not inevitable, to which he often replied, that we would all go to Hell together, and convert it into a heaven, by casting the Devil out; and says lie, Hell is by not means the place this world of fools suppose it to be, but on the contrary, it is quite an agreeable place: to which we would now reply, he can enjoy if he is determined not to desist from his evil ways; but as for us, and ours, we will serve the Lord our God!
It is absurd for men to assert that all is well, while wicked and corrupt men are seeking our destruction, by a perversion of sacred things; for all is not well, while whordoms and all manner of abominations are practiced under the cloak of religion. Lo! the wolf is in the fold, arrayed in sheep’s clothing, and is spreading death and devastation among the saints: and we say to the watchmen standing upon the walls, cry aloud and spare not, for the day of the Lord is at hand-a day cruel both with wrath and fierce anger, to lay the land desolate.
It is a notorious fact, that many females in foreign climes, and in countries to us unknown, even in the most distant regions of the Eastern hemisphere, have been induced, by the sound of the gospel, to forsake friends, and embark upon a voyage across waters that lie stretched over the greater portion of the globe, as they supposed, to glorify God, that they might thereby stand acquitted in the great day of God Almighty.
But what is taught them on their arrival at this place?- They are visited by some of the Strikers, for we know not what else to call them, and are requested to hold on and be faithful, for there are great blessings awaiting the righteous; and that God has great mysteries in store for those who love the lord, and cling to brother Joseph.
They are also notified that Brother Joseph will see them soon, and reveal the mysteries of Heaven to their full understanding, which seldom fails to inspire them with new confidence in the Prophet, as well as a great anxiety to know what God has laid up in store for them, in return for the great sacrifice of father of mother, of gold and silver, which they gladly left far behind, that they might be gathered into the fold, and numbered among the chosen of God.—
They are visited again, and what is the result? They are requested to meet brother Joseph, or some of the Twelve, at some insulated point, or at some particularly described place on the bank of the Mississippi, or at some room, which wears upon its front–Positively NO Admittance.
The harmless, inoffensive, and unsuspecting creatures, are so devoted to the Prophet, and the cause of Jesus Christ, that they do not dream of the deep laid and fatal scheme which prostrates happiness, and renders death itself desireable; but they meet him, expecting to receive through him a blessing, and learn the will of the Lord concerning them, and what awaits the faithful follower of Joseph, the Apostle and Prophet of God,
When in the stead thereof, they are told, after having been sworn in one of the most solemn manners, to never divulge what is revealed to them, with a penalty of death attached that God Almighty has revealed it to him, that she should be his (Joseph’s) Spiritual wife; for it was right anciently,and God will tolerate it again: but we must keep those pleasures and blessings form the world, for until there is a change in the government, we will endanger ourselves by practicing it-but we can enjoy the blessings of Jacob, David, and others, as well as to be deprived of them, if we do not expose ourselves to the law of the land.
She is thunder-struck, faints recovers, and refuses. The Prophet damns her if she rejects. She thinks of the great sacrifice and of the many thousand miles she has traveled over sea and land, that she might save her soul from pending ruin, and replies, God’s will be done and not mine.
The Prophet and his devotees in this way are gratified. The next step to avoid public exposition from the common course of things, they are sent away for a time, until all is well; after which they return, as from a long visit. Those whom no power or influence could seduce, except that which is wielded by some individual feigning to be a God, must realize the remarks of an able writer, when he says, “if woman’s feelings are turned to ministers of sorrow, where shall she look for consolation?”
Her lot is to be wooed and want her heart is like some fortress that has been captured, sacked, abandoned, and left desolate. With her, the desire of the heart has failed-the great charm of existence is at an end; she neglects all the cheerful exercise of life, which gladen the spirits, quicken the pulses, and send the tide of life in healthful currents through the veins. Her rest is broken.
The sweet refreshment of sleep is poisoned by melancholy dreams; dry sorrow drinks her blood, until her enfeebled frame sinks under the slightest external injury. Look for her after a little while, and you find friendship weeping over her untimely grave; and wondering that one who but so recently glowed with all the radiance of health and beauty, should so speedily be brought down to darkness and despair, you will be told of some wintry chill, of some casual indisposition that laid her low!
But no one knows of the mental malady that previously sapped her strength, and made her so easy a pray to the spoiler. She is like some tender tree, the pride and beauty of the grove-graceful in its form, bright in its foliage, but with the worm praying at its heart; we find it withered when it should be most luxuriant.
We see it drooping its branches to the earth, and shedding leaf by leaf until wasted and perished away, it falls in the stillness of the forest; and as we muse over the beautiful ruin, we strive in vain to recollect the blast or thunder-bolt that could have smitten it with decay. But no one knows the cause except the foul fiend who perpetrated the diabolical deed.
Our hearts have mourned and bled at the wretched and miserable condition of females in this place; many orphans have been the victims of misery and wretchedness, through the influence, that has been exerted over them, under the cloak of religion and afterwards, in consequence of that jealous dispositon which predominates over the minds of some, have been turned upon a wide world, fatherless and motherless, destitute of friends and fortune; and robbed of that which nothing but death can restore.
Men solace themselves by saying the facts slumber in the dark caverns of midnight. But Lo! it is sudden day, and the dark deeds of foul fiends shall be exposed from the house-tops. A departed spirit, once the resident of St. Louis, shall yet cry aloud for vengeance.
It is difficult–perhaps impossible–to describe the wretchedness of females in this place, without wounding the feelings of the benevolent, or shocking the delicacy of the refined; but the truth shall come to the world. The remedy can never be applied, unless the disease is known.
The sympathy, ever anxious to relieve, cannot be felt before the misery is seen.–The charity that kindles at the tale of woe, can never act with adequate efficiency, till it is made to see the polllution and guilt of men, now buried in the death-shades of heathenism.—
Shall we then, however painful the sight, shrink from the contemplation of their real state? We answer, we will not, if permitted to live. As we have before stated, it is the vicious principles of men we are determined to explode. It is not that we have any private feelings to gratify, or any private pique to settle, that has induced us to be thus plain; for we can respect and love the criminal, if there is any hope of reformation: but there is a point beyond which forbearance ceases to be a virtue.
The next important item which presents itself for our consideration, is the attempt at Political power and influence, which we verity believe to be preposterous and absurd. We believe, it is inconsistent, and not in accordance with the christian religion.
We do not believe that God ever raised up a Prophet to christianize a world by political schemes and intrigue. It is not the way God captivates the heart of the unbeliever; but on the contrary, by preaching truth in its own native simplicity, and in its own original purity, unadorned with anything except its own indigenous beauties.
Joseph may plead he has been injured, abused, and his petitions treated with contempt by the general government, and that he only desires an influence of a political character that will warrant him redress of grievances; but we care not-the faithful followers of Jesus must bear in this age as well as Christ and the Apostles did anciently; although a frowning world may have crushed him to the dust; although unpitying friends may have passed him by; although hope, the great comforter in affliction, may have burst forth and fled from his troubled bosom; yet, in Jesus there is a balm for every wound, and a cordial to assuage an agonized mind.
Among the many items of false doctrine that are taught the Church, is the doctrine of many Gods, one of the most direful in its effects that has characterized the world for many centuries. We know not what to call it other than blasphemy, for it is most unquestionably, speaking of God in an impious and irreverent manner.
It is contended that there are innumerable gods as much above the God that presides over this universe, as he is above us; and if he varies from the law unto which he is subjected, he, with all his creatures, will be cast down as was Lucifer: thus holding forth a doctrine which is effectually calculated to sap the very foundation of our faith, and now, O Lord! shall we set still and be silent, while thy name is thus blasphemed, and thine Honor, power and glory, brought into disrepute? See Isaiah c 43, v 10; 44, 6-8; 45, 5, 6, 21, 22; and book of Covenants, page 26 and 39.
In the dark ages of Poperty, when bigotry, superstition, and tyranny held universal sway over the empire of reason, there was some semblance of justice in the inquisitiorial deliberations; which, however, might have been dictated by prudence, or the fear of consequences; but we are no longer forced to appeal to those states that are now situated under the influence of Popery for examples of injustice, cruelty and oppression-we can appeal to the acts of the inquisitorial deliverations, which, however, might have been dictated by prudence, or the fear of consequences: but we are no longer forced to appeal to those states that are now situated under the influence of popery for examples of injustice, cruelty and oppression-we can appeal to the acts of the inquisitorial department organized in Nauvoo, by Joseph and his accomplices, for specimens of injustice of the most pernicious and diabolical character that ever stained the pages of the historian…
On thursday evening, the 18th of April, there was a council called, unknown to the Church, which tried, condemned, and cut off brothers Wm. Law, Wilson Law, and sister Law, (Wm’s. wife,) brother R. D. Foster, and one brother Smith, with whom we are unacquainted; which we contend is contrary to the book of Doctrine and Covenants, for our law condemnest no man until he is heard.
We abhor and protest against any council or tribunal in this Church, which will not suffer the accused to stand in its midst and plead their own cause. If an Agrippa would suffer a Paul, whose eloquence surpassed, as it were, the eloquence of men, to stand before him, and plead his own cause, why should Joseph, with others, refuse to hear individuals in their own defence?—
We answer, it is because the court fears the atrocity of its crimes will be exposed to public gaze. We wish the public to thoroughly understand the nature of this court, and judge of the legality of its acts as seemeth them good.
On Monday, the 15th of April, brother R.D. Foster had a notice served on him to appear before the High Council on Saturday following, the 20th, and answer to charges prefered against him by Joseph Smith. On Saturday, while Mr. Foster was preparing to take his witnesses, 4l in number, to the council-room, that he might make good his charges against Joseph, president Marks notified him that the trial had been on Thursday evening, before the 15th, and that he was cut off from the Church; and that same council cut off the brother Laws’, sister Law, anad brother Smith, and all without their knowledge.
They were not notified, neither did they dream of any such thing being done, for William Law had sent Joseph and some of the Twelve, special word that he desired an investigation before the Church o General Conference, on the 6th of Ap’l. The court, however, was a tribunal possessing no power to try Wm. Law, who was called by special Revelation, to stand as counsellor to the President of the Church. (Joseph,) which was twice ratified by General Conferences, assembled at Nauvoo, for Brigham Young, one of the Twelve, presided, whose duty it was not but the President of the High Council-See Book of Doctrine and Covanants, page 87.”
As you can see, William Law was the one foreordained to point out the errors of the church and offer the “reformation” that God had prophesied about.
He not only addressed the false doctrine of spiritual wife-polygamy, he also condemned the false multiple God doctrine that had been preached at the King Follett funeral and he pointed out how excommunications were being conducted contrary to the laws of God, without giving the accused the opportunity to be heard.
[refering to the fact that we can all become Christs and then become exactly like the Father and that the Father had once been a human being]
Unfortunately, the saints refused to repent and the Lord covered the eyes of all of the leaders of the church, including those of William Law, after he was forced to flee from Nauvoo for his life.
Despite the fact that the reputation of William Law has been assassinated by the modern corporate church, I am here to tell you that he was a good and noble man who was inspired to do what he did.
He helped to fulfill prophecy by publicly outing the abominable practices of God’s anointed servant and to help ignite the prophecy chastisement that was foretold in prophecy.
He also provided the opportunity for the saints to repent and return to the original precepts of the gospel as contained in the Book of Mormon and the 1833 Book of Commandments.
I firmly believe that William Law will return with brother Joseph and Sidney and others to complete his calling. Section 124 confirms this.
[Editorial Note: Although it appears to have been established that William Law did not personally participate in the mob that killed Joseph Smith and he denied having anything to do with the murder, there is a popular story in Mormonism about two teenage boys, Dennison Lott Harris and his friend, Robert Scott who testified that William Law and others held secret meetings plotting to destroy Joseph Smith to prevent the false prophet from doing further damage.
There is also another interesting story about two Mormon missionaries who obtained an affidavit from William Law's sister stating that he made a deathbed confession admitting that he did in fact have some indirect involvement in the death of Joseph.
I have a copy of that affidavit in my files somewhere. It is also probably on the Internet somewhere.
Based on ancient prophecy, I am not sure it ultimately really matters what Law's personal involvement was one way or the other.He was inspired to do what he did.
There is much information I could not include in the above article including the pleading of William Law to Joseph to repent and also the attempts by both Hyrum and Sidney to work out a deal with Law and reinstate him back into the First Presidency on condition that he would all off the dogs during the heated issue of Joseph's involvement in Polygam, but Law would only be reconciled upon a public confession by Joseph Smith that the polygamy doctrine was from the devil and that Joseph had sinned... For those who don't have the Book by Lindon Cook on Law, this article is amazing]