According to the Mormon historian D. Michael Quinn,
Mormon Church leaders considered the possibility of signing a document
like the Manifesto on December 20, 1888, and rejected the idea:
After this overwhelming repudiation, Woodruff
told the apostles, 'Had we yielded to that document every man
of us would have been under condemnation before God. The Lord
never will give a revelation to abandon plural marriage.' (Dialogue,
Spring 1985, page 35)
Because of the fact that Wilford Woodruff had previously
taught that polygamy could not be discontinued and had even claimed
to have revelations to that effect, the other leaders of the church
were confused by his Manifesto. Apostle Cannon's journal shows that
there was division among the highest leaders of the church at the
time the Manifesto was issued (see Mormonism--Shadow or Reality?
While the Manifesto was approved by the membership
of the church, the Mormon writer Russell R. Rich admits that
not even among the general authorities of the
Church was there unanimous support for abolishing the practice.
(Brigham Young University Week, Those Who Would Be Leaders,
In October, 1891, President Woodruff testified that
the Manifesto not only prohibited any more plural marriages, but
that it also forbid the unlawful cohabitation of those who were
already in polygamy. While Wilford Woodruff and other Mormon leaders
were publicly stating that members of the church should observe
the law concerning unlawful cohabitation, they were secretly teaching
that it was all right to break it. The leaders of the Mormon Church,
in fact, had promised the government they would obey the law of
the land, but many of them broke their promises.
Few people, however, realized to what extent until
they were called to testify in the "Proceedings Before the Committee
on Privileges and Elections of the United States Senate in the Matter
of the Protests Against the Right of Hon. Reed Smoot, a Senator
From the State of Utah, to Hold His Seat." Joseph F. Smith, who
was the sixth President of the church, testified as follows in the
Reed Smoot Case:
The CHAIRMAN. Do you obey the law in having five
wives at this time, and having them bear to you eleven children
since the manifesto of 1890?
Mr. SMITH. Mr. Chairman, I have not claimed that in that case
I have obeyed the law of the land.
The CHAIRMAN. That is all.
Mr. SMITH. I do not claim so, and I have said before that I prefer
to stand my chances against the law.
Reed Smoot Case, vol. 1, p. 197
Mr. TAYLER. You say there is a State law forbidding
Mr. SMITH. That is my understanding.
Mr. TAYLER. And ever since that law was passed you have been violating
Mr. SMITH. I think likely I have been practicing the same thing
even before the law was passed.
(Ibid., p. 130)
The CHAIRMAN. ...you are violating the law?
Mr. SMITH. The law of my State?
The CHAIRMAN. Yes.
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Senator OVERMAN. Is there not a revelation published in the Book
of Covenants here that you shall abide by the law of the State?
Mr. SMITH. It includes both unlawful cohabitation and polygamy.
Senator OVERMAN. Is there not a revelation that you shall abide
by the laws of the State and of the land?
Mr. SMITH. Yes, sir.
Senator OVERMAN. If that is a revelation, are you not violating
the laws of God?
Mr. SMITH. I have admitted that, Mr. Senator, a great many times
Ibid., pp. 334-335
When Senator Hoar was questioning President Joseph
F. Smith concerning polygamy, Smith finally stated: "I presume I
am the greatest culprit." (page 312)
Charles E. Merrill, the son of the Apostle Marriner
W. Merrill, testified that he took a plural wife after the Manifesto
and that his father performed the ceremony:
Mr. TAYLER. ...When was it you married your second
wife; that is, the second wife you now have?
Mr. MERRILL. In the fall of 1888.
Mr. TAYLER. And the next marriage took place in 1891?
Mr. MERRILL. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. Who married you in 1891?
Mr. MERRILL. My father.
Mr. TAYLER. When were you married?
Mr. MERRILL. I could not give you the exact date, but it was in
Mr. TAYLER. 1891?
Mr. MERRILL. Yes, sir.
Mr. TAYLER. Was your father then an apostle?
Mr. MERRILL. Yes, sir."
(Reed Smoot Case, vol. 1, pp. 408-409)
Walter M. Wolfe, who was at one time professor of
geology at Brigham Young College, claimed that the Apostle John
Henry Smith made this statement to him: "'Brother Wolfe, don't you
know that the manifesto is only a trick to beat the devil at his
own game?'" (Reed Smoot Case, vol.4, page 13)
Anthony W. Ivins, who later became a member of the
First Presidency of the Mormon Church, was appointed by the church
leaders to perform plural marriages in Mexico after the Manifesto.
His son, Stanley S. Ivins, told us that his father received instructions
after the Manifesto to perform marriages for time and all eternity
outside of the Mormon temples.
He received a ceremony for these marriages (which
Stanley S. Ivins had in his possession). He was sent to Mexico and
was told that when the First Presidency wanted a plural marriage
performed they would send a letter with the couple who were to be
married. Whenever he received these letters from the First Presidency,
he knew that it was all right to perform the ceremony.
After his father's death, Stanley S. Ivins copied
the names of those who had been married in polygamy into another
book and then gave the original book to the Mormon leaders. Wallace
Turner says that
More than fifty polygamist marriages were easily
identifiable, beginning in June, 1897, when three men from Utah
were married at Juarez,... They had crossed over into Mexico just
for the marriage ceremony, then went back into the United States.
However, Ivins refused to perform marriages for the regular population
of the Mormon colonies because the men lacked the letters from
Salt Lake City which he considered to be his authority for the
ceremony. However, by 1898 polygamous marriages were being performed
routinely in Mexico by other Mormon leaders. (The Mormon Establishment,
1966, p. 187)
Stanley Ivins claimed that his father continued
to perform plural marriages for the church until the year 1904.
In the Reed Smoot Case, vol. 4, page 11, Walter M. Wolfe
testified that Ovena Jorgensen told him how she had obtained approval
from George Q. Cannon, of the First Presidency, to enter into polygamy.
Stanley S. Ivins confirmed the fact that his father, Anthony W.
Ivins, performed the marriage ceremony. Stanley Ivins related to
us that Walter Wolfe's testimony concerning this marriage hurt the
church's image so much that the First Presidency of the church sent
Anthony Ivins a letter requesting him to go back to Washington,
D.C. and give false testimony before the Committee on Privileges
and Elections of the United States Senate.
The First Presidency of the Mormon Church actually
wanted him to lie under oath and state he did not perform the ceremony.
Stanley Ivins said that even if Walter Wolfe's testimony did damage
the image of the church, his father refused to go back to Washington,
D.C. and lie about the marriage.
Frank J. Cannon, a very prominent Mormon who served
as United States Senator for Utah, related that just after the death
of his brother, Apostle Abraham H. Cannon, in July 1896, his father,
George Q. Cannon, told him that it was fortunate for the church
that Abraham had died because he had taken Lillian Hamlin as a plural
wife. This fact had become known, and he "would have had to face
a prosecution in Court." President Cannon denied that he had anything
to do with the marriage (a claim that is inconsistent with facts
which have recently come to light), and went on to say:
President Smith obtained the acquiescence of President
Woodruff, on the plea that it wasn't an ordinary case of polygamy
but merely a fulfillment of the biblical instruction that a man
should take his dead brother's wife. Lillian was betrothed to
David, and had been sealed to him in eternity after his death.
I understand that President Woodruff told Abraham he would leave
the matter with them if he wished to take the responsibility--and
President Smith performed the ceremony. (Under the Prophet
in Utah, pages 176-177)
According to the diary of Abraham H. Cannon, his
father, George Q. Cannon, a member of the First Presidency, lamented
the fact that his sons could not raise up seed to David through
My son David died without seed, and his brothers
cannot do a work for him, in rearing children to bear his name
because of the manifesto. (Journal of Abraham H. Cannon, April
5, 1894, vol.19, page 70)
From an entry in Apostle Cannon's diary for Oct.
24, 1894, it would appear that the Mormon leaders had decided that
a plural marriage could be performed in Mexico to raise up seed
to David. Although the diary has been damaged at this point and
a few words are missing, the remaining portion shows that the Mormon
leaders did not take the Manifesto seriously:
After meeting I went to the President's Office
and ____ Father [George Q. Cannon] about taking a wife for David.
I told him David had taken Anni[e] _____ cousin, through the vail
in life, and suggested she might be a good pe_______ sealed to
him for eternity. The suggestion pleased Father very much, and
______ Angus was there, He spoke to him about it in the presence
of the Presidency. _________ not object providing Annie is willing.
The Presidents Woodruff and Smith both sa[id] they were willing
for such a ceremony to occur, if done in Mexico, and Pres. Woodruf[f]
promised the Lord's blessing to follow such an act. (Journal of
Abraham H. Cannon, Oct. 24, 1894, vol.18, p.170; original at Brigham
The Mormon scholar D. Michael Quinn, professor of
American History at Brigham Young University, has found another
important reference which he feels proves beyond all doubt that
"President Woodruff personally authorized Apostle Abraham H. Cannon
to marry a new plural wife..." This reference is also in Apostle
Cannon's own journal:
'Father [George Q. Cannon] also spoke to me about
taking some good girl and raising up seed by her for my brother
David.... Such a ceremony as this could be performed in Mexico,
so Pres. Woodruff has said.' (Abraham H. Cannon Journal, Oct.19,
1894, as cited in Dialogue, Spring 1985, page 62)
It is startling, to say the least, that President
Wilford Woodruff approved of and promised "the Lord's blessing"
on the plural marriage which was being planned. This was four years
after he published a "solemn" denial of the practice in the Manifesto:
We are not teaching polygamy or plural marriage,
nor permitting any person to enter into its practice,... (D&C,
Official Declaration, page 256 of 1978 printing)
It was some two years after the plural marriage
was approved by the First Presidency that Abraham Cannon actually
took Lillian Hamlin as his plural wife. The evidence indicates that
Joseph F. Smith, who became the 6th president of the church, married
the couple himself. President Smith denied that he performed the
ceremony, but he acknowledged:
I accompanied Abraham H. Cannon and his wife on
that trip, and had one of my wives with me on that trip. (Reed
Smoot Case, vol. 1, page 111)
When President Smith was asked when he first learned
that Lillian Hamlin was Apostle Cannon's wife, he responded:
The first that I suspected anything of the kind
was on that trip, because I never knew the lady before. (Ibid.)
Like the other Mormon leaders, Joseph F. Smith was
supposed to be doing all in his power to prevent the practice of
polygamy, yet his testimony gives the impression that he was oblivious
to what was going on when he went on the trip with Lillian Hamlin
and Apostle Cannon:
Mr. TAYLOR. Did you have any talk on that journey
or after you left Salt Lake--after you first heard or learned
that Lillian Hamlin was the wife of Abraham Cannon--as to when
they were married?
Mr. SMITH. No, sir.
Mr. TAYLOR. Did you have any talk with either of them?
Mr. SMITH. Not in the least.
MR TAYLER Not in the least?
Mr. SMITH. Not in the least, sir; and no one ever mentioned to
me that they were or were not married. I simply judged they were
married because they were living together as husband and wife.
Mr. TAYLER. Did you say anything by way of criticism to Abraham
Mr. SMITH. No, sir."
(Reed Smoot Case, vol. 1, page 128)
Unfortunately, Abraham Cannon's 1896 journal is
not available. D. Michael Quinn informs us that
Apostle Cannon's 1896 diary is the only volume
missing of his many diaries,... (Dialogue, Spring 1985,
John Henry Hamlin, however, testified that his sister,
Lillian Hamlin, was married to Apostle Cannon. When he was asked
who performed the ceremony, he replied:
Well, our understanding was that President Joseph
F. Smith married her.
Wilhelmina C. Ellis, who had been one of Apostle
Cannon's wives, testified that Abraham Cannon was not married to
Lillian Hamlin until he went on the trip with President Smith:
Mr. TAYLER. What conversation did you have with
him then about his going away and about his getting married again?
What did he say first about going?
Mrs. ELLIS. He told me he was going to marry her for time, and
that she would be David's wife for eternity.
Mr. TAYLER. What did he say about Miss Hamlin?
Mrs. ELLIS. ...he said she was going with him and President Smith.
(Reed Smoot Case, vol. 2, page 143)
Because her husband was not married to Lillian Hamlin
when he left on the trip with Joseph F. Smith and came back as her
husband, Mrs. Ellis inferred that President Smith had performed
the marriage ceremony. She admitted, in fact, that she had frequently
stated that Smith did marry them. Since Abraham H. Cannon had previously
written that "Presidents Woodruff and Smith both sa[id] they were
willing for such a ceremony to occur," it would be stretching our
credulity to believe President Smith's denial that he knew anything
about the marriage.
It is difficult, in fact, to deny Frank Cannon's
charge that his father [George Q. Cannon] told him that President
Smith performed the ceremony. While those who knew about this marriage
usually felt that Joseph F. Smith married the couple "on the high
sea" just off the coast of California, Mormon scholar D. Michael
Quinn seems confident that the ceremony was performed in the Salt
Lake Temple. His research in temple records reveals the following:
When Lillian Hamlin was endowed in the Salt Lake
Temple on 17 June 1896, she was sealed by proxy to the deceased
David H. Cannon. Abraham H. Cannon was the proxy, and Joseph F.
Smith performed the sealing. The next day, the Smiths and Cannons
left Salt Lake City for California. Therefore, Joseph F. Smith
actually performed his only post-Manifesto polygamous marriage
as a proxy ceremony in the Salt Lake Temple for Abraham H. Cannon
but could legally claim that he [was] simply officiating in a
sealing on behalf of the deceased brother. (Dialogue, Spring
1985, page 84)
Professor Quinn bases this argument on the fact
that the records of earlier sealings for the dead indicate that
"one ceremony united the living woman for eternity to the deceased
husband and for time to the proxy husband." While Quinn's argument
is persuasive, the fact that Joseph F. Smith traveled with the couple
after the temple ritual may still leave open the possibility that
it was a separate ceremony in California or on the "high sea"--i.e.,
beyond the boundary of the United States. In any case, Quinn's discovery
of temple records linking President Smith to a sealing ceremony
in which both Apostle Cannon and Lillian Hamlin participated just
the day before he traveled with the couple seems to sew up the case
against Joseph F. Smith.
Apostle Abraham H. Cannon's journals not only reveal
that the Mormon leaders approved of polygamy after the Manifesto,
but they also show they were considering the idea of a secret system
of concubinage wherein men and women could live together without
actually being married:
Father [George Q. Cannon] now spoke of the unfortunate
condition of the people at present in regard to marriage.... I
believe in concubinage, or some plan whereby men and women can
live together under sacred ordinances and vows until they can
be married.... such a condition would have to be kept secret,
until the laws of our government change to permit the holy order
of wedlock which God has revealed, ...-- --President Snow. 'I
have no doubt that concubinage will yet be practiced in this church,...--
--Pres. Woodruff: 'If men enter into some practice of this character
to raise a righteous posterity, they will be justified in it...'
(Journal of Abraham H. Cannon, April 5, 1894, vol. 18, p. 70)
As we have shown earlier, Joseph Smith's revelation
on polygamy also said that concubinage was justifiable in God's
Abraham received concubines and they bore him
children; and it was accounted unto him for righteousness,...'
After making a long and careful study of the Mormon
Church's attitude toward polygamy, the Committee on Privileges and
Elections submitted a report in which it claimed that the Manifesto
was a deception:
A sufficient number of specific instances of the
taking of plural wives since the manifesto of 1890, so called,
have been shown by the testimony as having taken place among officials
of the Mormon Church to demonstrate the fact that the leaders
in this church, the first presidency and the twelve apostles,
connive at the practice of taking plural wives, and have done
so ever since the manifesto was issued which purported to put
an end to the practice... as late as 1896 one Lillian Hamlin became
the plural wife of Abraham H. Cannon, who was then an apostle...
The prominence of Abraham H. Cannon in the church, the publicity
given to the fact of his taking Lillian Hamlin as a plural wife,
render it practically impossible that this should have been done
without the knowledge, the consent, and the connivance of the
headship of that church.
George Teasdale, another apostle of the Mormon
Church, contracted a plural marriage with Marion Scholes since
the manifesto of 1890.... Charles E. Merrill, a bishop of the
Mormon Church, took a plural wife in 1891,... The ceremony...
was performed by his father, who was then and until the time of
his death an apostle in the Mormon Church. It is also shown that
John W. Taylor, another apostle of the Mormon Church, has been
married to two plural wives since the issuing of the so-called
Matthias F. Cowley, another of the twelve apostles,
has also taken one or more plural wives since the manifesto....
Apostles Taylor and Cowley, instead of appearing before the committee
and denying the allegation, evade service of process issued by
the committee for their appearance and refuse to appear after
being requested to do so,... about the year 1896 James Francis
Johnson was married to a plural wife,....the ceremony in this
instance being performed by an apostle of the Mormon Church. To
these cases must be added that of Marriner W. Merrill, another
It is a fact of no little significance in itself,
bearing on the question whether polygamous marriages have been
recently contracted in Utah by the connivance of the first presidency
and twelve apostles of the Mormon Church, that the authorities
of said church have endeavored to suppress, and have succeeded
in suppressing, a great deal of testimony by which the fact of
plural marriages contracted by those who were high in the councils
of the church might have been established beyond the shadow of
a doubt. Before the investigation had begun it was well known
in Salt Lake City that it was expected to show on the part of
the protestants that Apostles George Teasdale, John W. Taylor,
and M. F. Cowley, and also Prof. J. M. Tanner, Samuel Newton and
others who were all high officials of the Mormon Church had recently
taken plural wives, and that in 1896 Lillian Hamlin was sealed
to Apostle Abraham H. Cannon as a plural wife... All, or nearly
all, of these persons except Abraham H. Cannon, who was deceased,
were then within reach of service of process from the committee.
But shortly before the investigation began all these witnesses
went out of the country.
Subpoenas were issued for each one of the witnesses
named, but in the case of Samuel Newton only could the process
of the committee be served. Mr. Newton refused to obey the order
of the committee, alleging no reason or excuse for not appearing.
It is shown that John W. Taylor was sent out of the country by
Joseph F. Smith on a real or pretended mission for the church...
It would be nothing short of self-stultification
for one to believe that all these important witnesses chanced
to leave the United States at about the same time and without
reference to the investigation. All the facts and circumstances
surrounding the transaction point to the conclusion that every
one of the witnesses named left the country at the instance of
the rulers of the Mormon Church and to avoid testifying before
It was claimed by the protestants that the records
kept in the Mormon temple at Salt Lake City... would disclose
the fact that plural marriages have been contracted in Utah since
the manifesto with the sanction of the officials of the church.
A witness who was required to bring the records in the temple
at Salt Lake City refused to do so after consulting with President
Smith....it was shown by the testimony, and in such a way that
the fact could not possibly be controverted, that a majority of
those who give the law to the Mormon Church are now, and have
been for years, living in open, notorious, and shameless polygamous
cohabitation. The list of those who are thus guilty of violating
the laws of the State and the rules of public decency is headed
by Joseph F. Smith, the first president, 'prophet, seer, and revelator
of the Mormon Church,...
The list also includes George Teasdale, an apostle;
John Henry Smith, an apostle; Heber J. Grant, an apostle; M. F.
Cowley, an apostle; Charles W. Penrose, an apostle; and Francis
M. Lyman, who is not only an apostle, but the probable successor
of Joseph F. Smith as president of the church. Thus it appears
that the first president and eight of the twelve apostles, a considerable
majority of the ruling authorities of the Mormon Church, are noted
polygamists. (Reed Smoot Case, vol. 4, pp. 476-480)
While the Committee on Privileges and Elections
was hampered by the Mormon Church's attempt to impede the investigation
and to suppress evidence, it did find enough documentation to put
the church in a very embarrassing position. When we published the
1982 edition of Mormonism--Shadow or Reality? we felt that
we had enough new evidence to completely disprove the claim that
polygamy in the Mormon Church ended with the Manifesto (see pages
231-244F). We were, of course, somewhat limited in our research
because we did not have access to a great deal of important material
in the Mormon Archives.
Fortunately, however, one of the church's most qualified
historians, D. Michael Quinn, began researching this matter. While
he certainly did not have access to all of the secret records of
the church, he was entrusted with some extremely important church
documents and was able to ferret out enough material to write what
many people consider to be the definitive work on the subject. His
article is entitled, "LDS Church Authority and New Plural Marriages,
1890-1904." It is found in the Spring 1985 issue of Dialogue:
A Journal of Mormon Thought. Although he claims he still has
faith in Mormonism, he believes in honest history and pulls no punches
in his presentation. Dr. Quinn gives the following information in
Ninety percent of new polygamous marriages contracted
from September 1890 through December 1904 directly involved Church
authority.... On 11 September 1901, the Deseret Evening News
branded as 'groundless' and 'utterly false' the statement
of a Protestant minister that 'one of the Apostles had recently
taken an additional wife,' when in fact four apostles had married
plural wives so far that year...
The year 1903 was the climax of post-Manifesto
polygamy with Church authority....apostles were performing new
polygamous marriages in the United States and Mexico, where both
the stake patriarch and president were also officiating for residents
of the Juarez Stake. The stake president had, furthermore, been
authorized by the First Presidency to perform plural marriages
for U. S. residents with the necessary letters from Salt Lake
City. In addition, for the first time since the establishment
of the Canadian settlement of Mormons, the Church president authorized
local Church authority to perform plural marriages there for Canadian
Mormons... Although those presently unavailable manuscripts would
bring further corroboration and precision, sufficient information
exists to verify the participation of Church authorities in new
plural marriages from September 1890 through the end of 1904...
When Byron H. Allred asked for permission to marry the young woman
who accompanied him to the President's office on 4 October 1890,
President Woodruff patiently explained the reasons he had issued
the Manifesto and then told Allred to move as soon as possible
with his intended plural wife to Mexico where Alexander F. Macdonald
would perform the ceremony. Anson B. Call was bold enough to come
to Woodruff s own home... President Woodruff told him to sell
all his property in the United States and move to Mexico with
his intended wife... Apostle Young,... performed at least five
plural marriages there [in Mexico] when he returned in May-June
1894. Among these plural marriages was one for Franklin S. Bramwell,
then a stake high councilman, who later wrote, 'When I took my
second wife I had a letter signed by President Woodruff himself
and went to Mexico with a personal letter from Prest. George Q.
Cannon.'... In June 1897, the First Presidency authorized Juarez
Stake President Anthony W. Ivins to perform polygamous ceremonies
in Mexico, and in the fall President Woodruff authorized Anthon
H. Lund to perform two plural marriages aboard ship, one on the
Pacific Ocean and one on the Great Lakes...
Circumstantial evidence indicates that Wilford
Woodruff married Madame Mountford as a plural wife in 1897...
In the last year of his life, Wilford Woodruff
thus maintained a public stance that was at variance with his
private activities regarding polygamy. When Protestant ministers
charged the Church with allowing new plural marriages, President
Woodruff wrote the editor of the Protestant newspaper that 'no
one has entered into plural marriage by my permission since the
Manifesto was issued.'...
The First Presidency's office not only authorized
these post-Manifesto plural marriages in Mexico as performed by
the presiding authority there, but also was aware of and recorded
the plural marriages that visiting apostles performed in Mexico....
during the presidency of Lorenzo Snow in 1901, four apostles (including
Brigham Young, Jr.) married plural wives... John W. Taylor claimed
that he married two plural wives in August 1901 with the permission
of the Church president; but the clearest evidence that Lorenzo
Snow gave permission individually to the apostles to marry plural
wives in 1901 comes from Heber J. Grant, who later wrote: 'Before
I went to Japan [in July 1901] my President intimated that l had
better take the action needed to increase my family,' and Grant's
notebook indicates that President Snow gave this permission on
26 May 1901: 'Temple Fast mtg--17 years since Gusta and I married--She
willing to have me do my duty. & Pt Snow...
Alter George Q. Cannon's death in April 1901,
Joseph F. Smith, as sole counselor, was one who sent prominent
Mormons to Matthias F. Cowley for polygamous ceremonies; and upon
Lorenzo Snow's death in October 1901, his successor Joseph F.
Smith promoted and protected new polygamous marriages more actively
than the two previous Church presidents...
By the fall of 1903, Joseph F. Smith had decided
to expand new polygamous marriages even further...
Joseph F. Smith continued the familiar pattern
of denying publicly what was happening privately throughout these
years. More significantly he was keeping his own counselors and
half of the apostles in the dark about what he and the other half
were doing to promote new polygamous marriages... Joseph F. Smith
divided the Church against itself and apostle against brother
apostle over the question of new polygamous marriages. He did
it with the best of intent--to preserve 'the principle' as well
as to protect the institution of the Church by filing official
minutes of quorum meetings with repudiations of what he was actually
allowing individual Church officers to do with his authorization
and blessing as Church president. This allowed plausible denial
to the Church's enemies, but the policy created double definitions
of authority, sanction, permission, knowledge, validity, loyalty,
and truth--a wind that would begin to reap the whirlwind in 1904.
Dialogue, Spring 1985, pages 56, 58-60, 62, 65, 72, 73,
90, 93, 95 and 96
According to Professor Quinn, Heber J. Grant, who
served as the 7th president of the church from 1918 until 1948,
did not actually go through with the plural marriage which President
Snow suggested that he enter into on May 26, 1901. (Ibid, p. 73)
Nevertheless, Grant did have problems with the law after the Manifesto.
In 1899--nine years after Woodruff s Manifesto--he was convicted
of unlawful cohabitation (see the Daily Tribune, Sept. 9,
In 1903 Heber J. Grant had to flee the country to
avoid being arrested. According to the testimony of Charles Mostyn
Owen, Grant had been boasting about his relationship "with two women
as his wives." Mr. Owen "went before the county attorney and swore
to an information for him, and a warrant was issued on that information."
Before Grant could be arrested, "He left suddenly on the night of
the 10th of November last year--1903." Owen said that Grant had
gone to England and was still there while the Smoot investigation
was going on (see Reed Smoot Case, vol.2, pages 401-402).
The reader will remember Quinn says that Joseph
F. Smith was more actively involved in promoting polygamy after
the Manifesto than the other presidents of the church. Professor
Quinn has put forth a devastating case against President Smith.
This is very interesting because Joseph F. Smith emphatically denied
in his testimony given in the Reed Smoot Case that polygamy was
ever approved by church leaders after the Manifesto:
Mr. SMITH. ... It has been the continuous and
conscientious practice and rule of the church ever since the manifesto
to observe that manifesto with regard to plural marriages; and
from that time till to-day there has never been, to my knowledge,
a plural marriage performed in accordance with the understanding,
instruction, connivance, counsel, or permission of the presiding
authorities of the church, or of the church, in any shape or form;
and I know whereof I speak, gentlemen, in relation to that matter.
(Reed Smoot Case, vol.1, page 129)
When President Smith was asked if he knew of any
plural marriage being performed by church authority in any part
of the world since 1890, he responded: "No, sir; I do not." (Ibid,
If the Committee on Privileges and Elections had
possessed the documentation which Dr. Quinn has compiled, Joseph
F. Smith would probably have been prosecuted for perjury. On page
98 of his article, Quinn pointed out that President Smith was
risking a perjury indictment by concealing any
evidence detrimental to the Church as an institution or to any
individual (including himself) who acted in his capacity as a
Church official in promoting post-Manifesto polygamy. As President
Smith told another prospective witness in the Smoot case, 'We
should consider the interests of the Church rather than our own.'
Although the senators believed that President Smith
was not telling the truth, they also knew that it would be very
difficult to prosecute him since he had control over most of the
witnesses. Professor Quinn has found evidence that Joseph F. Smith
did, in fact, obstruct the investigation by the Committee on Privileges
and Elections just as the report had charged:
...Joseph F. Smith throughout 1904 maintained
that despite his best efforts, the subpoenaed apostles were either
too ill or too recalcitrant to testify in the Smoot investigation.
It is far more probable, however, that the Church
president did not want the Senate to question anyone who had married
and fathered children by post-Manifesto plural wives... President
Smith told Apostle [Abraham Owen] Woodruff midway through April
conference, 'You would not be a good witness,' [and] advised him
to 'stay in retirement' to avoid a subpoena in Utah, and to prepare
immediately to preside over the LDS mission in Germany... Five
days after he presented the second Manifesto, Joseph F. Smith
instructed California Mission President Joseph E. Robinson to
move his two post-Manifesto plural wives and their children from
Salt Lake City to Mexico to avoid a subpoena.
A plural wife of John W. Taylor later provided
the background to the letters her husband and Apostle Cowley sent
to Joseph F. Smith about refusing to testify before the Senate
Committee. 'He received two contradictory letters in the mail,
for him to sign and return. One said he would go to Washington,
the other said he would not go to Washington. Nellie cried: 'John,
you don't intend to place yourself in a trap by signing both those
letters, do you?' He pointed at the signature of President Joseph
F. Smith and said, 'I will do what my Prophet orders me to do."
President Smith used the letter for each man he felt the circumstances
of April 1904 required.... President Smith sent George Teasdale
to Mexico to avoid testifying. The apostle chafed at this forced
exile, and President Smith relented enough to have George F. Gibbs
notify Teasdale in August 1904 that he and Apostle Cowley could
leave Mexico and speak at three stake conferences in Arizona,
provided that the local stake authorities did not publish any
reference to their visit in the Deseret News or local papers
and that they provide no information on their itinerary.
Dialogue, Spring 1985, pages 100-101
Joseph F. Smith, the 6th president of the church,
not only had the power to avoid being indicted for perjury, but
was also able to escape prosecution in Utah for many years. It was
16 years after the Manifesto was issued when President Smith was
finally convicted of unlawful cohabitation. The church's Deseret
Evening News, for November 23, 1906 reported:
...President Smith appeared forthwith and entered
a plea of guilty and was fined three hundred dollars. The fine
was promptly paid and the defendant discharged.
Trail of Dishonesty
While Mormon apologists would have us believe otherwise,
untruth and secrecy were used by the church leaders to cover up
polygamy. D. Michael Quinn has discovered that in just "thirteen
and a half years" after the Manifesto, when the leaders of the church
were deeply involved in secretly promoting the practice of polygamy,
the First Presidency individually or as a unit
published twenty-four denials that any new plural marriages were
being performed. (Dialogue, Spring 1985, page 9)
A careful examination of Mormon history reveals
that this pattern of dishonesty stemmed from Joseph Smith himself.
Smith always publicly denied the practice, and as we have already
shown, he was even willing to perform a fake excommunication to
hide the practice. On May 3, 1844, the History of the Church,
vol. 6, p.411, reported that Joseph Smith responded as follows to
the accusation that he "kept six or seven young females as wives":
What a thing it is for a man to be accused of
committing adultery, and having seven wives, when I can only find
I am the same man, and as innocent as I was fourteen
years ago; and I can prove them all perjurers.
In his article in Dialogue, page 21, Quinn
noted that Joseph Smith had "more than thirty plural wives" at the
time he made this denial. We have previously cited a notice printed
in the Times and Seasons in which both Joseph Smith and his
brother Hyrum, who was a member of the First Presidency of the church,
signed a statement saying Hiram Brown had been "cut off from
the church for preaching polygamy, and other false and corrupt doctrines."
The following month, Hyrum Smith wrote the following for the Times
and Seasons (March 15, 1844, vol.5, p.474):
...brother Richard Hewitt... states to me that
some of your elders say, that a man having a certain priesthood,
may have as many wives as he pleases, and that doctrine is taught
here: I say unto you that that man teaches false doctrines, for
there is no such doctrine taught; neither is there any such thing
practised here. And any man that is found teaching privately or
publicly any such doctrine, is culpable, and will stand a chance
to be brought before the High Council, and lose his license and
The article on marriage, which was published in
the early editions of the Doctrine and Covenants was frequently
used by the early Mormon Church to counteract the report that polygamy
was being practiced. On Sept. 1, 1842, this statement appeared in
the Times and Seasons (vol. 3, p. 909):
Inasmuch as the public mind has been unjustly
abused... we make an extract on the subject of marriage, showing
the rule of the church on this important matter. The extract is
from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and is the only rule
allowed in the church.
'...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,...'
In vol.4, p.143, of the Times and Seasons,
we find the following:
We are charged with advocating a plurality of
wives, and common property. Now this is as false as the many other
ridiculous charges which are brought against us. No sect have
[sic] a greater reverence for the laws of matrimony, or the rights
of private property, and we do what others do not, practice what
In the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial Star,
vol.3, p.74, the following denial appeared:
But, for the information of those who may be assailed
by those foolish tales about two wives, we would say that no such
principle ever existed among the Latter-Day Saints, and never
will;... the Book of Mormon, Doctrine and Covenants; and also
all our periodicals are very strict on that subject, indeed far
more so than the bible.
After Joseph Smith's death the denials of polygamy
continued to come forth in Mormon publications. When someone stated
that Joseph Smith taught polygamy, the Latter-Day Saints' Millennial
Star (vol.12, pp.29-30) called it a lie:
12th Lie--Joseph Smith taught a system of polygamy.
12th Refutation.--The Revelations given through Joseph Smith,
state the following:... 'We believe that one man should have one
wife.' Doctrine and Covenants, page 331.
As late as 1850 John Taylor, who became the 3rd
president of the church, denied that the Mormons believed in the
practice of plural marriage:
We are accused here of polygamy,... and actions
the most indelicate, obscene, and disgusting, such that none but
a corrupt and depraved heart could have contrived. These things
are too outrageous to admit of belief;... I shall content myself
by reading our views of chastity and marriage, from a work published
by us containing some of the articles of our Faith. 'Doctrine
and Covenants,' page 330... Inasmuch as this Church of Jesus 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, except in the case of death,...'
(A tract published by John Taylor in 1850, page 8; found in Orson
Pratt's Works, 1851 edition)
On page 23 of his article in Dialogue, Dr.
Quinn revealed that at the time he made this denial of polygamy
"in 1850, John Taylor had married twelve polygamous wives who had
already borne him eight children."
At the beginning of this article we quoted Apostle
John A. Widtsoe as saying that Joseph Smith "taught honesty in all
affairs, he insisted that his people be honest..." Our research
concerning polygamy shows that these statements concerning Joseph
Smith are wishful thinking. He not only deceived his own wife about
polygamy, but was willing to go to almost any length to keep some
of his own followers in the dark concerning what he really believed.
Those who were close to him seem to have picked up his deceptive
ways and taught them to those who followed. Consequently, the record
of at least the first seven presidents of the church is marred by
the transgression of the law and duplicity.
On April 6, 1904, President Joseph F. Smith issued
what is known as the "Second Manifesto." This document claimed that
since the Manifesto given in 1890, no plural marriages "have been
solemnized with the sanction, consent or knowledge of the Church
of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints." (Dialogue, Spring
1985, p. 10)
Although President Smith's statement is certainly
untruthful, the Smoot investigation put a great deal of pressure
on the church leaders and it was not long before the practice of
polygamy died out within the church. Unfortunately, however, the
insincerity of the Mormon leaders after the Manifesto left such
a credibility gap that many Mormons continued to hold to polygamy
even after the church withdrew its support of the practice. Like
Joseph Smith, they secretly entered into polygamy, and even though
the Mormon Church excommunicated a large number of them, the movement
did not die out. Consequently, almost a century after Wilford Woodruff
issued the Manifesto, there are thousands of people who are still
practicing polygamy in Utah.
On Dec. 27, 1965, the New York Times reported
that as "many as 30,000 men, women and children live in families
in which polygamy is practiced." In 1966 the Mormon writer Leonard
J. Arrington claimed that this was a "far-fetched estimate." The
following year, however, Ben Merson reported:
'Today in Utah,' declares William M. Rogers, former
special assistant to the State Attorney General, 'there are more
polygamous families than in the days of Brigham Young. At least
30,000 men, women and children in this state are now living in
plural households--and the number is rapidly increasing.' Thousands
now live in the adjoining states of Idaho, Nevada, Wyoming, Colorado,
New Mexico and Arizona--plus sizable populations in Oregon, California,
Canada and Mexico. (Ladies' Home Journal, June 1967, page
Because they claim to go back to the fundamental
doctrines of Mormonism, those who believe in practicing polygamy
today are usually known as Mormon "Fundamentalists." The Mormon
leaders now find themselves in a very strange situation. On the
one hand, they have to uphold polygamy as a righteous principle,
but on the other, they have to discourage the members of the church
from actually entering into its practice. If they completely repudiated
the doctrine of polygamy, they would be admitting that Joseph Smith
was a deceiver, and that the church was founded on fraud. If, however,
they openly preached and defended the doctrine, many people would
probably enter into the practice and bring disgrace upon the church.
Their position is about the same as a person saying,
"My church believes in water baptism, but we are not allowed to
practice it." Because of this peculiar dilemma, church officials
prefer that there is not much discussion of plural marriage. As
long as the Mormon leaders continue to publish Joseph Smith's revelation
on polygamy (D&C, Section 132), there will, no doubt,
be many people who will enter into the practice. They cannot completely
repudiate this revelation, however, without destroying their doctrine
concerning temple marriage because the two doctrines were revealed
in the same revelation. (Temple marriage, of course, is the marriage
of a man and woman for time and all eternity in a secret ritual
performed only in a Mormon temple.)
Although the Mormon Church no longer allows a man
to be sealed to more than one living woman, in Mormon doctrine all
women who marry for eternity in the temple have to face the possibility
that they could end up living in polygamy in heaven without their
consent. If the wife should die before her husband, he is allowed
to be sealed to another woman for eternity. The woman, however,
is not allowed to be sealed to two husbands for eternity. Joseph
Fielding Smith, who became the 10th president of the church, explained
how the rules of the temple discriminate against women:
When a man and a woman are married in the temple
for time and all eternity, and then the man dies and the woman
marries another man, she can be married to him for time only.
(Doctrines of Salvation, vol. 2, p. 78)
President Smith himself remarried after the death
of his first wife, and in the same book, page 67, he remarked: "...my
wives will be mine in eternity."
Mormon writer John J. Stewart made it very clear
that although the church does not allow a man to have more than
one living wife at the present time, the doctrine of plural marriage
is still an "integral part of LDS scripture":
...the Church's strictness in excommunicating
those advocating and practicing plural marriage today has apparently
been misconstrued by not a few loyal Church members as an acknowledgment
that the evil falsehoods... and other misconceptions about plural
marriage, are true, and that the Church's near silence on the
doctrine today is further evidence that it regrets and is embarrassed
by the whole matter of plural marriage. Such an inference is,
of course, unjustified and unrealistic. The Church has never,
and certainly will never, renounce this doctrine. The revelation
on plural marriage is still an integral part of LDS scripture,
and always will be.
Brigham Young and His Wives, pages 13-14
Moment of Truth
Notwithstanding Apostle Widtsoe's bold assertions
concerning the honesty of Joseph Smith and the Mormon Church itself,
the evidence with regard to polygamy reveals exactly the opposite.
A majority of the church presidents (7 out of 13) who were supposed
to have been 'prophets, seers, and revelators' to the Church, were
involved in a doctrine which led them into breaking the law, adultery,
deception, perjury, bribery and a massive cover-up which has continued
on until the present time. Since Jesus Himself told us to beware
of "false prophets," and instructed us that we will "know them by
their fruits" (Matthew 7:15-16), it seems imperative that we face
the truth about Mormonism.
There is no way around the problem; the deceptive
practices used by Joseph Smith and the other early leaders of the
Mormon Church must be recognized for what they are the "evil fruit"
which Jesus attributed to "false prophets." While we do not agree
with much of the material written by President Joseph Fielding Smith,
he did make one statement that really gets to the heart of the matter:
Mormonism, as it is called, must stand or fall
on the story of Joseph Smith. He was either a prophet of God,
divinely called, properly appointed and commissioned, or he was
one of the biggest frauds this world has ever seen. There is no
If Joseph Smith was a deceiver, who wilfully attempted
to mislead the people, then he should be exposed; his claims should
be refuted, and his doctrines shown to be false,... (Doctrines
of Salvation, vol.1, pp. 188-189)
We sincerely hope that Mormons who read this will
see the futility of trusting in leaders who have used so much deceit
and cover-up in establishing their work.