Nauvoo Plural Marriage essay

The essay Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo states:

Emma approved, at least for a time, of four of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages in Nauvoo, and she accepted all four of those wives into her household. She may have approved of other marriages as well.[39] But Emma likely did not know about all of Joseph’s sealings.[40] She vacillated in her view of plural marriage, at some points supporting it and at other times denouncing it.

Footnote 39. Jenson, “Historical Record,” 229–30, 240; Emily Dow Partridge Young, deposition, United States Testimony 1892 (Temple Lot Case), part 3, pp. 365–66, 384; Orson Pratt, in Journal of Discourses, 13:194.

Footnote 40. Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, 2:8, 48–50, 80; Bushman, Rough Stone Rolling, 473.

Lucy Walker: “4 other girls”

Shortly afterwards I consented to become the Prophet’s wife, and was married to him May 1, 1843, Elder William Clayton officiating. I am also able to testify that Emma Smith, the Prophet’s first wife, gave her consent to the marriage of at least four other girls to her husband, and that she was well aware that he associated with them as wives within the meaning of all that word implies. This is proven by the fact that she herself, on several occasions, kept guard at the door to prevent disinterested persons from intruding, when these ladies were in the house. Jenson, “Historical Record,” 229–30 (emphasis added)

Mormon Enigma identifies the 4 individuals Emma consented to as Emily and Eliza Partridge and Sarah and Maria Lawrence. (source)

Emily Partridge testimony

We had been there about a year when the principle of plural marriage was made known to us, and I was married to Joseph Smith on the 4th of March, 1843, Elder Heber C. Kimball performing the ceremony. My sister Eliza was also married to Joseph a few days later. This was done without the knowledge of Emma Smith. Two months afterwards she consented to give her husband two wives, provided he would give her the privilege of choosing them. She accordingly chose my sister Eliza and myself, and to save family trouble Brother Joseph thought it best to have another ceremony performed. Accordingly on the 11th of May, 1843, we were sealed to Joseph Smith a second time, in Emma’s presence, she giving her free and full consent thereto. From that very hour, however, Emma was our bitter enemy. (emphasis added) Jenson, “Historical Record,” 240

We also have Emily’s Temple Lot Testimony (pg 365, 366, 384, footnoted in the Nauvoo Polygamy essay). She insists that Emma gave her consent for the marriage, but she is not able to recall in what manner she gave her consent besides being present at the second ceremony.

As noted by Marquardt, the person who apparently performed the second sealing, James Adams, did not arrive in Nauvoo from Springfield until May 21. Given this and other data, Johnny Stephenson has suggested that the second sealing may have been a fabrication which Emily was pressured to make. The second sealing may not have actually taken place.

The idea that Emma was unaware of the first sealings with the Partridge sisters seems the most certain of all the facts related to the Partridge sisters.

Orson Pratt Sermon

We have not time to read the revelation this afternoon; suffice it to say that God revealed the principle through His servant Joseph in 1843. It was known by many individuals while the Church was yet in Illinois; and though it was not then printed, it was a familiar thing through all the streets of Nauvoo, and indeed throughout all Hancock County. Did I hear about it? I verily did. Did my brethren of the Twelve know about it? They certainly did. Were there any females who knew about it? There certainly were, for some received the revelation and entered into the practice of the principle. Some may say, “Why was it not printed, and made known to the people generally, if it was of such importance?” I reply by asking another question. Why did not the revelations in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants come to us in print years before they did? Why were they shut up in Joseph’s cupboard years and years without being suffered to be printed and sent broadcast throughout the land? Because the Lord had His own time again to accomplish His purposes, and He suffered the revelations to be printed just when He saw proper. He did not suffer the revelation on the great American war to be published until some time after it was given. So in regard to the revelation on plurality; it was only a short time after Joseph’s death that we published it, having a copy thereof. But what became of the original? An apostate destroyed it; you have heard her name. That same woman, in destroying the original, thought she had destroyed the revelation from the face of the earth. She was embittered against Joseph, her husband, and at times fought against him with all her heart; and then again she would break down in her feelings, and humble herself before God and call upon His holy name, and would then lead forth ladies and place their hands in the hands of Joseph, and they were married to him according to the law of God. That same woman has brought up her children to believe that no such thing as plurality of wives existed in the days of Joseph, and has instilled the bitterest principles of apostasy into their minds, to fight against the Church that has come to these mountains according to the predictions of Joseph. (emphasis added) (Journal of Discourse vol 13, pg 183)

Rough Stone Rolling pgs. 473 and 490-91

On pg 473 of Rough Stone Rolling, Bushman states:

The Whitneys stole away from Nauvoo without Emma knowing. She was unaware of this marriage, and perhaps most of the others. Joseph would have preferred to take new wives with her consent, and may have asked for her cooperation. The later marriage revelation required men to consult with their wives, and allowed them to go ahead on their own only if their wives refused. In 1843 Joseph would approach Emma for consent, but her earlier opposition meant the 1842 marriages entangled Joseph in subterfuge and deception. Newel was to come ahead of the women and knock at Joseph’s window, taking care to arrive when Emma was not there. The letter was to he burned upon receipt—though it survived to tell its tale. “Keep all locked up in your breasts, my life depends upon it,“ he warned them. The main reason for coming, he said, was to “git the fulness of my blessings sealed upon our heads,” a reference perhaps to the sealing of Newel and Elizabeth in eternal marriage three days later. In closing, he appealed to them to consider “how lonesome I must be.”[54] (emphasis added)

Pages 490-91 state:

In the first six months of 1843, Joseph married twelve women, two of them already married to other men, one single and fifty-eight years old. Five of the women boarded in Joseph’s houshold when he married them. Emma probably knew nothing of these marriages at first and then temporarily accepted them before regretting her action and demanding that all five leave. (emphasis added)

Jenson’s note about Mr. Sayers

Part of the handwritten note reads: “While there the strongest affection sprang up between the Prophet Joseph and Mr. Sayers. The latter not attaching much importance to ^the^ theory of a future life insisted that his wife ^Ruth^ should be sealed to the prophet for eternity, as he himself should only claim her in this life. She ^was^ accordingly sealed to the Prophet in Emma Smith’s presence and thus were became numbered among the Prophets [sic] plural wives. ^though she^ She however continued to live with Mr. Sayers remained with her husband until his death.” Jenson Papers, Box 49, fd. 16, Document 5, transcribed by Don Bradley. Courtesy LDS Church History Library (taken from Brian Hales Joseph Smith’s Personal Polygamy) (emphasis added)

Emma Smith’s last testimony

Emma denied that Joseph had other wives. Her last testimony:

Question. What about the revelation on polygamy? Did Joseph Smith have anything like it? What of spiritual wifery?

Answer. There was no revelation on either polygamy or spiritual wives. There were some rumors of something of the sort, of which I asked my husband. He assured me that all there was of it was, that, in a chat about plural wives, he had said, “Well, such a system might possibly be, if everybody was agreed to it, and would behave as they should; but they would not; and besides, it was contrary to the will of heaven.” No such thing as polygamy or spiritual wifery was taught, publicly or privately, before my husband’s death, that I have now, or ever had any knowledge of.

Question. Did he not have other wives than yourself?

Answer. He had no other wife but me; nor did he to my knowledge ever have.

Question. Did he not hold marital relations with women other than yourself?

Answer. He did not have improper relations with any woman that ever came to my knowledge.

Question. Was there nothing about spiritual wives that you recollect?

Answer. At one time my husband came to me and asked me if I had heard certain rumors about spiritual marriages, or anything of the kind; and assured me that if I had, that they were without foundation; that there was no such doctrine, and never should be with his knowledge or consent. I know that he had no other wife or wives than myself, in any sense, either spiritual or otherwise.


We know from a letter written in his hand that Joseph was hiding his relationship with Sarah Ann Whitney from Emma, at least to some degree.

If we trust Lucy Walker and Emily Partridge’s testimony (and there are some good reasons to be suspicious of at least parts of their testimony) then at least 5 women had consent for marriage from Emma. We can also add in the possibility of consent for Sayers.

  1. Lucy Walker
  2. Sarah Lawrence
  3. Maria Lawrence
  4. Ruth Vose Sayers (polyandrous sealing, late 3rd hand evidence of consent)
  1. Emily Partridge (first sealing without consent)
  2. Eliza Partridge (first sealing without consent)

Appear to have discovered and disapproved

Although not discussed above, it can be surmised that Joseph’s relationship to Fanny was discovered after the fact (“transaction”, etc.) and his relationship with Eliza R. Snow was discovered after the fact. All evidence suggests Emma was very disapproving of these relationships.

  1. Fanny Alger
  2. Eliza R. Snow