It’s Official: Mormon Founder Had Up to 40 Wives


Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief in which the first stage is denial, and the second is anger. Members are saying on blogs and social media, “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love,” Ms. Jensen said.


That had to be very tiresome or he was a rotten husband to his 40 wives. Could you imagine buying gifts for Christmas? Suzie loves red but you messed up and gave her Betty’s yellow gift instead. 40 women as sister wives, gosh there had to be a lot of jealously and fighting going on. I couldn’t imagine how dysfunctional that family was.
I love my husband with all my heart, but there is no way in hell that I would deal with another husband.


40 Mother-in-Laws!! Some people are suckers for punishment.


Somehow I bet this isn’t going to trouble die-hard Mormons so much. Nor should it. Polygamy is objectionable on much better grounds than the fact that someone you look up to didn’t do it.


Quite astonishing, in this day and age that they managed to keep the news quiet for so long. It was not that long ago, about 150 years hence that information could have been realtively easily researched. Mind you - there’s always a good excuse! :rolleyes:

According to the church’s essay, Smith had not wanted to take multiple wives, but relented after an angel appeared to him three times between 1834-1842. On the angel’s last visit, the church said, “the angel came with a drawn sword, threatening Joseph with destruction unless he went forward and obeyed the commandment fully.”
As the church’s essay notes, Smith also saw his fledgling Mormon movement as a restoration of the “ancient principles” of biblical prophets like Abraham, who practiced plural marriage.


Oh pick, pick, pick, you snooty Catholics.

Not EVERYBODY gets to have the son of God found THEIR religion. :cool:

Some insight into the 14 year old:

(Her mother): “If you backsass me *ONE *more time young lady … I’ll marry you off to the Prophet!”

There are rumors that Joseph Smith is still alive (a look at their major league roster reveals he is a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim). :wink:


I heard he was spotted having a drink with Elvis Presley.


If the Internet had existed when Joseph Smith published/posted the book of Mormon he would have been just another eccentric person on the Internet.

But to be fair most of the 40 wives were spiritual wives. :whacky:


The Mormon church has admitted that its founder, Joseph Smith, married about 40 women including a 14-year-old and others who were already the wives of his followers, having maintained for nearly 200 years that he was monogamous.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints has tried to gloss over aspects of its history, including the polygamy practised by Smith and Brigham Young, who helped found Salt Lake City, Utah, the headquarters of the Mormon church.

“Joseph married many additional wives and authorised other Latter-day Saints to practise plural marriage,” a church essay entitled Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo said, noting that “careful estimates put the number between 30 and 40”.

The church has been widely criticised for its treatment of women, black people, who it barred from the higher priesthood until 1978, and gays, who were banned from its temples if they were sexually active.

Smith’s wives were mostly between the ages of 20 and 40, but Helen Mar Kimball, the daughter of close friends, was “sealed” to him several months before she turned 15.

“Plural marriage was difficult for all involved. For Joseph Smith’s wife Emma, it was an excruciating ordeal,” the essay, part of a collection issued over the past year, said.

The church, founded in 1830, banned polygamy in 1890 when the US government threatened to deny Utah statehood.


Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

Should the government stand in the way of three or more people who love each other?


Once we start down the road of “marriage equality,” where do we stop?


Yes, not sure this is really news. I mean I heard about the Mormon polygamy thing when I was a kid, known it my whole life. The Mormons are not traditional Protestants, not by a long shot. Their worst enemies have been traditional Protestants. They are in their own* very *unique world…

And, yes, as for polygamy, when I was a kid in school, they always touted the outlawing of polygamy as this great step forward in moral progress and social order…I predict it will be widely characterized as oppressed under a hetero-monogamous-normative social code by 2025, complete with (successful) lawsuits going up to the SCOTUS.


Mormons: you are always welcome with us Catholics. Our Church was founded by Jesus Christ.


I could be wrong about this, but it’s my understanding that his first wife, Emma, and their son broke with Brigham Young. Emma and her son founded the Reformed LDS, and Brigham Young gathered the majority and went to Utah.

The RLDS never did go to Utah, and I think they have a sizeable church in Kansas City; perhaps elsewhere.

To my understanding, Emma never did accept the notion that Joseph Smith was polygamous and condemned Brigham Young for his polygamy. To my understanding, the RLDS never did believe in polygamy, while the “Brigham Young LDS” did.


I find this rather surprising. Mormons are notorious for their study of geneology. Presumably descendants of the founder would be proud of their ancestry.

Have not multiple claims of ancestry through different wives of Smith been made, compared, and discussed over the years? If not, why not?


Polygamy is its own punishment. Brigham Young had 55 wives, so maybe Joseph Smith was a moderate.


The Honeybee is the Utah “state insect”. I have a theory. Mormonisms two most prominent founders had so many wives they called them all “honey”. :shrug:


Indeed, probably part of the reason the LDS are now softly admitting what has long been otherwise known, is that this information is out on the net, and not all of it is as gentle in its release as what they are doing.

I don’t know much about Smith personally, but Smith is looked into quite a bit, including by former LDS members, and the news was getting out anyway, a lot of which suggests that he was indeed a “rotten husband”. At some point they had to get some control on the story, lest it all come from critics and dissidents.


I suspect you are quite correct.

Indeed, what it will do is to arm, a bit, LDS fringe groups that have never abandoned the practice. LDS members who continued this practice after it was officially disapproved of were long tolerated, and its really only within the mid 20th Century that it really came to be fully disapproved of within the LDS, although there have always been break away groups that continued on with it. Now that there’s a Federal Court decision, on hold, that finds prohibiting polygamy to be unconstitutional, I wonder if there will be a move to tolerate the practice within the LDS again.

My guess will be no, but in part because in recent years the LDS has really tried to break out into the wider mainstream. LDS members in the wider society, such as recent Presidential candidate Mitt Romney, would be hurt if the practice was allowed once again.


I think that’s correct, and I believe the break away group has, over time, moved more towards being a church that resembles conventional American protestant churches, or so I’ve heard.

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