[VERY ROUGH DRAFT]

Bennett is a complicated source. On some level, it is clear that he had access to inside information that has been verified by scholars over time (for instance, he was able to indicate by initials many of Joseph’s early polygamous wives). At the same time, he was a serial adulterer, and it is difficult to interpret many of his statements as anything but lies. So, there are very good reasons to consider Bennett a compromised and untrustworthy source, generally.

Martha had been a faithful Saint, emigrating from England with her family (arriving in Nauvoo the 25th of November, 1841) to settle in Nauvoo. All modern scholars (including those who deny that Joseph Smith himself was involved) agree that a proposition event took place. This event then triggered Martha to tell her parents, causing them to spread news of the proposition among the Saints and that would convince them to leave Nauvoo even though they would leave two sisters and a brother-in-law behind.

Bennett claims to have met with Brotherton in St. Louis

Bennett recorded his thoughts after visiting Martha in St. Louis and reports them in History of the Saints (pg. 236):

Miss Brotherton is a very good-looking, amiable, and accomplished English lady, of highly respectable parentage, cultivated intellect, and spotless moral character …

Bennett claimed Martha wrote the affidavit herself

[LDS leaders] were foiled in their hopeful scheme [of winning Martha for Brigham], and utterly defeated by the determined resistance of their intended victim, as will be seen by the following graphic letter from her own pen

Female literacy was at about 50% in England1 when Brotherton’s family left, so it is not unreasonable to believe that she was able to read and write.

Martha does not mention the meeting or Bennet’s influence

In her letter to the St. Louis Bulletin, Martha does not refer to a private meeting between her and Bennett, instead opting to give the impression that her affidavit was merley in response to Bennett’s newspaper solicitation.

DEAR SIR [to Bennett]: – I left Warsaw a short time since for this city, and having been called upon by you, through the “Sangamo Journal,” to come out and disclose to the world the facts of the case in relation to certain propositions made to me at Nauvoo, by some of the Mormon leaders, I now proceed to respond to the call, and discharge what I consider to be a duty devolving upon me as an innocent, but insulted and abused female.

Martha gives no indication that Bennett assisted her or influenced her in the preparation of her affidavit.

Affidavit by Martha alone or in some combination with Bennett

Taken together, the circumstantial evidence suggests that either Brotherton alone or Brotherton with some assistance or influence from Bennett were responsible for producing her affidavit. It is difficult to preference one or the other possibility from clues outside the text of the affidavit itself.

The two possibilities listed above are acknowledged by Richard and Pamela Price, RLDS researchers who defended Joseph Smith against charges of polygamy. They write:

At that time Martha (or Martha and Bennett together) produced the … lengthy affidavit

Textual analysis

The possible influence of Bennett on Brotherton’s affidavit may be determined by examining Brotherton’s claims. Bennett

Restoration of OT polygamy?

Angel with a sword commanding?

Ceremony required?

Priesthood authority required?

Worthiness required?

Husband-wife marriage relationship established?

Eternal Relationship formed?

“No sin where there was no accuser” argument?

“…if we did not accuse one another God would not accuse us & if we had no accuser we should enter heaven. He [Joseph] would take us there as his backload. If we would not accuse him [Joseph] he would not accuse us & if we would throw a cloak of charity over his sins he would over ours. For charity coverd a multitude of Sins & what many people called sin was not sin & he did many things to break down superstition & he would break it down. He spoke of the curse of Ham for laughing at Noah while in his wine but doing no harm.” (Source: Wilford Woodruff’s Journal, Vol. 2, 1841–1845, p.137, November 7, 1841, emphasis mine.)

h/t Johnny Stephenson

Polyandrous sexual relations permitted?

Need to keep relationship completely secret?

Three orders of polygamous wives?

“lawful and right” in Joseph’s talk on polygamy. “lawful” is in D&C 132

  1. From David Mitch, “Education and Skill of the British Labour Force,” in Roderick Floud and Paul Johnson, eds., The Cambridge Economic History of Modern Britain, Vol. 1: Industrialization, 1700–1860, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. p. 344.