“1835 version D&C section 101:4 ‘Inasmuch as this Church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication and polygamy, we declare that we believe that one man should have one wife, and one woman, but one husband.” COMMENT: RLDS Elder David H. Bays complained in 1897: “You may have observed the ingenious phraseology of that part of the document which is designed to convey the impression that the assembly, as well as the entire church, was opposed to polygamy, but which, as a matter of fact, leaves the way open for its introduction and practice. The language I refer to is this: ‘We believe the tone man shall have one wife; and one woman BUT ONE HUSBAND.’ Why use the restrictive adverb in the case of the woman, and ingeniously omit it with reference to the man? Why not employ the same form of words in the one case as in the other? Of the woman it is said she shall have BUT ONE HUSBAND. Why not say of the man, he shall have ‘BUT ONE WIFE except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.” In 1902, LDS Church President Joseph F. Smith made the same observation: “The declaration… that ‘one man should have one wife, and one woman but one husband,’ bears the implication that a man might possibly be permitted at some time to have more than one wife, while a woman was to have “but one husband.”
Please note that I have responded to Hales’ implication that Joseph Smith never actually lied here
Bays analysis of the restrictive adverb “but” is interesting, but it falls short of exonerating anyone.
The 1835 statement is specificially addressing the claim of polygamy which was understood by everyone in Joseph Smith’s time as having more than one wife or one husband. The meaning is abundantly clear when the numbers (and those words implying numbers) are emphasized in the statement:
… Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy [i.e., someone having more than one wife]: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again …
The restrictive adverb cannot be seen to legitimately modify/restrict the meaning of the 1835 statement because that restriction would directly contradict the plain meaning embedded in the numbers themselves. In addition, the statement is couched in a context where polygamy is seen as a crime (hence the words are meant to deflect the reproachment). So, while clever, Bays defense results in an internally inconsistent meaning, and so should be rejected.
The straightforward meaning of the 1835 statement is also corrobarated by the manner in which LDS officials used the 1835 statement.
Martha Brotherton’s affidavit is an example of one of the claims made by Bennett. In it Martha describes a polygamous marriage proposal to her from Brigham Young and endorsed by Joseph Smith. It explicitly involved Martha becoming a second wife to Brigham Young. Also, please note that the wives of Joseph Smith referred to their unions in precisely the same manner as Brotherton.
Both the September 1, 1842 and October 1, 1842 Times and Seasons articles are addressing these kinds of claims, and both use the 1835 D&C statement to mean that they were not taking more than one wife.
And, lest we believe that the 1835 statement was only meant to apply to accusations of “spiritual wifery” given the proximity in time to Bennett’s accusations, John Taylor published an 1850 pamphlet in France which defended the Saints against the broad accusation of “polygamy” by again referring to the 1835 statement on marriage. Hence, in a context divorced in space and time from Bennett, the 1835 statement was still used to mean that the Saints were not practicing polygamy.
The statement by Joseph F. Smith falls to all the same criticisms as those directed at Bays.