I am more and more inclined to believe that stories about Joseph Smith and polygamy may have been either created or exaggerated by Mormon leaders in Utah. The research I have done makes it almost impossible for me to rely on the statements of Brigham Young, John Taylor and others regarding Joseph and polygamy. Is it likely Joseph had adulterous affairs – probably. The Fanny Alger story certainly lends credence to those reports.
If Brigham Young and John Taylor were influenced by the Cochranites to secretly practice polygamy, it would be easy for them to use Joseph’s adulterous activities to justify their own doctrine of polygamy. We know Brigham Young and John Taylor lied about their polygamous activities. Perhaps they hid them because Joseph really didn’t agree with it.
We do know that Joseph wanted his son Joseph III to take his place as head of the church after his death, and that Joseph III vehemently denied that his father practiced plural marriage. Here is a web site claiming Joseph Smith fought polygamy in the church:
The web site comes from people who followed Joseph III who stayed pretty close to orthodox Christianity in reference to the Trinity, etc. I’m not sure the Mormons can even claim proper authority from Joseph Smith. It seems to me the claim of the Community of Christ is at least as good as the LDS Church. That of course leaves open the possibility the LDS are apostates from their own tradition.