[very rough draft]


Explain the narrative.

Main arguments for why Joseph did not practice polygamy

The following are the primary arguments people use to posit that Joseph did not practice polygamy:

Joseph left no progeny.

  • There are good reasons that might explain why Joseph did not sire progeny in these relationships.
  • There are potential progeny that have not yet been tested (see same document)

Joseph’s denials

Joseph may have lied or misled about many other events:

  • Book of Commandment retrofit
  • Account of visiting Charles Anthon
  • JST copies Clarke in hundreds of cases with no attribution

Other testimony denying he practiced polygamy

Emma, etc.

Conflicting evidence

Conflicting and impossible testimony.

Arguments for why Joseph did practice polygamy

The Sarah Ann Whitney documents

We have primary documentation—all in Joseph Smith’s handwriting—suggesting intense interest in the 17-18 year old Sarah Ann Whitney expressed in a variety of ways:

  • a blessing that seems consistent with a polygamous relationship
  • a letter to the Whitneys that is consistent with a liason outside the auspices of Emma
  • A deed of property to Sarah Ann

These documents all align with the claims of the Whitneys that Joseph was involved in a polygamous relationship with Sarah Ann. If there are alternative theories that make sense of all three of these documents outside of a polygamous relationship, I am not aware of them. In addition, there exists other contemporary documentation pointing to Joseph Smith’s polygamy (see here for all the documentation including the 3 Sarah Ann docs)

Oliver’s letter

Other contemporary evidence

Testimony with opposing bias

Both antagonists (e.g., Martha Brotherton) and most supporters of Smith claimed (at least eventually) that he practiced polygamy. When those with opposing bias all point to the same observation, it strengthens the claim (consider the principles of source criticism).