Joseph Smith & Human Trafficking

The actions of Joseph Smith would very possibly qualify by today's standards as a human trafficker. In this Mormon Stories episode we use The Nauvoo Expositor - published by LDS Church 1st Presidency Member William Law - as the jumping off point to explore the question: was Joseph Smith involved in human trafficking?

What is Human Trafficking?

There are two primary types of human trafficking:

  • Forced labor - sometimes also referred to as labor trafficking, encompasses the range of activities involved when a person uses force, fraud, or coercion to exploit the labor or services of another person.
  • Sex trafficking

Sex trafficking is a form of human trafficking. It is the action or practice of transporting people from one country or area to another for the purpose of sexual exploitation.

“It has been called a form of modern slavery because of the way victims are forced into sexual acts non-consensually, in a form of sexual slavery” [National Human Trafficking Hotline]

“Sex trafficking is the recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, obtaining, patronizing, or soliciting of a person for the purpose of a commercial sex act in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion” [National Human Trafficking Hotline].


How does it begin?

People in sex trafficking situations almost always know and even trust or love their traffickers. Traffickers target vulnerable people who have needs that the traffickers can fill. Sometimes they offer material supporta place to live, clothing, a chance to “get rich quick.” Other times they offer love, emotional support or a sense of belonging. Kidnapping victims and forcing them into the sex trade through violence is rare.”


Who are the traffickers?

Traffickers come from all genders, races, ethnicities and walks of life. In sex trafficking situations, they may be intimate partners or spouses of the victims, family members, friends or benefactors, business acquaintances and bosses.”


Who are the victims?
Anyone can be trafficked, but some people are far more vulnerable than others because they have greater needs. These include people living in poverty or in unstable housing situations, as well as people with a history of trauma or addiction. Because of current and historic discrimination and inequity, people of color, immigrants, and people who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to be exploited for these vulnerabilities and face trafficking.”


Why don’t victims just leave?
In many cases, people in sex trafficking situations do not see themselves as victims while they are being trafficked. They have been so expertly manipulated or “groomed” that they believe they are making their own choice to engage in commercial sex. These emotional ties are as powerful as being held in handcuffs or behind bars. People in sex trafficking situations may well also depend on their traffickers for physical needs like money or shelter. They may face threats against them or their families or violence if they complain or try to leave.”


How do people get out of sex trafficking situations?
Every story is different. What they have in common is resilience. Survivors come to the understanding that they want to leave the situation, and then fight to get out. Sometimes they get help from service providers, or anti trafficking organizations, but the concept of “rescuing” adult sex trafficking victims is misleading and dangerous. Survivors rescue themselves.”


How do we reduce or prevent sex trafficking?
Human trafficking doesn’t happen in a vacuum. It is the end result of other inequities in our society and our economic system that make people vulnerable to the enticements of traffickers. So while prosecuting traffickers and seeking justice for survivors is vital, it is not enough by itself to end trafficking. To reduce trafficking at the massive scale of the problem, we need to work together as a society to increase supports and services for vulnerable people and change conditions – like homelessness, family violence, poverty and discrimination – that make people vulnerable to the lure of traffickers.”

Joseph Smith's Wives

Already Married Wives (11)

  • Lucinda Harris
  • Zina Jacobs
  • Presendia Buell
  • Sylvia Lyon
  • Mary Lightner
  • Patty Sessions
  • Marinda Hyde
  • Elizabeth Durfee
  • Sarah Kingsley
  • Ruth Sayers
  • Elvira Holmes

Single Wives (18)

  • Fanny Alger
  • Louisa Beaman
  • Eliza R. Snow
  • Sarah Ann Whitney
  • Flora Ann Woodworth
  • Emily Partridge
  • Eliza Partridge
  • Almera Johnson
  • Lucy Walker
  • Sarah Lawrence
  • Maria Lawrence
  • Helen Mar Kimball
  • Hannah Ells
  • Rhoda Richards
  • Desdemona Fullmer
  • Olive G. Frost
  • Melissa Lott
  • Nancy Winchester

Widowed Wives (4)

  • Agnes Smith
  • Delcena Sherman
  • Martha Knight
  • Fanny Young Murray

Did polygamy invovle sexual relations?

Book of Mormon, Jacob 2:24-26: “For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts… For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.”

According to the Book of Mormon the only reason God would command polygamy would be for the purpose of raising up seed.

Mormon Historians today (and even on the church’s website) admit that Joseph Smith could have had sexual relations with some of his plural wives. If there is evidence for SOME of his plural wives, why not ALL of them?

NOTE: Polygamy does not increase the number of children in the community. It ONLY increases the number of children for the one man.

Doctrine and Covenants 132:63 "But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which was given by my Father before the foundation of the world, and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified.

Futher reading: Dan Vogel has a great video that shows the evidence for Joseph Smith’s intimacy with his plural wives. Also, Todd Compton’s book “In Sacred Loneliness” lays out the evidence for such relationships as well with each of his wives. There is well documented evidence for some and not for others. Please note that the absence of evidence for physical relations does not mean they didn’t have those relationships.

Sex Trafficking through the lens of Polygamy 

These women did not see themselves as victims. They believed they were making their own choice to engage. 

They depended on Joseph (not only for money or shelter) but for the salvation of their eternal souls and those of their family.

These women faced threats against them or their families if they did not accept Joseph.

Human Trafficking: Sexual exploitation, domestic servitude, forced marriage.

Nauvoo Expositor

Highly qualified and motivated professionals

“..Many items of doctrine …are taught secretly, and denied openly.

William Law claimed that Joseph Smith “would not make acknowledgement” for these doctrines, but would rather be damned.” Joseph Smith seems to have thought that confessing would “prove the overthrow of the church.”

“Whoredoms and all manner of abominations are practiced under the cloak of religion. Lo! the wolf is in the fold…”

[The Preamble]

 “It is a notorious fact, that many females in foreign climes, and in countries to us unknown, even in the most distant regions of the Eastern hemisphere, have been induced, by the sound of the gospel, to forsake friends, and embark upon a voyage across waters that lie stretched over the greater portion of the globe, as they supposed, to glorify God, that they might thereby stand acquitted in the great day of God Almighty. But what is taught them on their arrival at this place?”

“They are visited by some of the Strikers, for we know not what else to call them, and are requested to hold on and be faithful, for there are great blessings awaiting the righteous; and that God has great mysteries in store for those who love the Lord, and cling to brother Joseph. They are also notified that brother Joseph will see them soon, and reveal the mysteries of Heaven to their full understanding, which seldom fails to inspire them with new confidence in the Prophet, as well as a great anxiety to know what God has laid up in store for them, in return for the great sacrifice of father and mother, of gold and silver, which they gladly left far behind, that they might be gathered into the fold, and numbered among the chosen of God.” [Preamble]

Only Female Converts?

 Todd Compton made an interesting remark when he said concerning Orson Pratt and Samuel Smith’s mission to Boston: “If there were male converts in Boston, they are not mentioned” [Compton, 147]

Throughout Church History, women were converted to the church, not taught anything concerning polygamy, traveled across the country or sometimes as far away as Europe to join the saints –having given up their homes, riches, and family members –and then were “given” to married men as their polygamous wives.


Hans P. Freece tells a story of a conversation he had with “an old woman” that he never names: 

“She then told me that her husband had been to England as a missionary and had brought back a young woman with him who had become his second wife. She said: "Oh! no woman can ever know what I have suffered since. Night after night I have lain on my lonely bed, alone and comfortless. I have walked the floor for hours, and have walked to and fro through the night between my cabin and the cabin where he always stays with his other wife." Years afterward she said to me : "Thank God ! I am all over it now. I do not care for anything now. I am not a woman only a stone." She broke down and cried, and I left the house with doubts as to the hardness of such a life because I had not yet been tried by the curse of polygamy.

The letters of an apostate Mormon to his son [pg. 40-41] pub 1908

Apostle Heber C. Kimball, The New York Times, April 17, 1860

"Brethren, I want you to understand that it is not to be as it has been heretofore. The brother missionaries have been in the habit of picking out the prettiest women for themselves before they get here, and bringing on the ugly ones for us; hereafter you have to bring them all here before taking any of them, and let us all have a fair shake."

Great Britain Newspaper Warns against Mormonism 

Chambers’ Edinburgh Journal, 
Sat. 5 November, 1842

“It might be deemed superfluous to say so much on this subject, were it not that the Mormon delusion has spread widely in North America, and even in Great Britain. Joseph Smith and his colleagues settled in 1831 on the Missouri, whence they were soon after expelled on account of their lawless conduct. They then went to Illinois, and founded a town or city, called Nauvoo, near the Mississippi, said now to contain 1700 able bodied men, exclusive of women and children. To this place too many emigrants are directing their course even from Great Britain…

“…But such blasphemous and deceitful stuff as this, the poor cotton-spinner, like too many others, was induced to go to Nauvoo, where, like other victims of delusion, he was wretchedly used.

“The Mormon preachers in England had described Nauvoo …as a land overflowing with milk and honey… It is needless to carry our notice of this matter further. Every shadow of evidence yet obtained tends to prove Mormonism to be a gross impostrue, and one unworthy of notice, save on account of the dangers which have here been described and exposed.”

Great Britain Newspaper Comments on Polygamy 

Durham County Advertiser, 
Fri. 23 August 1861 

“It happens sometimes that women, after having drunk the cup of polygamy, become sensible of its deadly effects, and end by opening their eyes to the pitfall into which a blind confidence in their missionaries has lured them. They weep bitterly and would fain fly ; but they are mothers, and how can they abandon their children ? Maternal love rises up stronger than the shame which overwhelms them. Moreover, they feel themselves dishonoured and betrayed; and innocent as they feel themselves be by the verdict of their own conscience, yet, in spite of this, they not think themselves the less degraded. The marriages they have contracted are purely religious; no civil authority has ratified them ; everywhere else they would be considered concubinage.”

Irish Newspaper 
Warns against Mormonism 

The Freeman's Journal, Dublin, 
Wed. Sept 6th, 1843, p. 1.

“We have often deplored the existence of such a system of delusion as that concocted and practiced by the notorious Joe Smith and his fellows, and have repeatedly warned the honest and industrious working class of this country against being made the dupes of those designing fellows

The said Nauvoo being represented as a very terrestrial paradise, where want, care, toil, and the thousand annoyances to which society is subject here are kept at an unapproachable distance, and where their opposites are in luxurant abundance.

They want either young women that they may ruin them, or young men to be their slaves. The males, from eighteen to forty-five years of age, are all required to bear arms… the writer describes this place as miserable, the condition of the settlers a[re] wretched, and the conduct of the prophet and his minions as abominable and blasphemous in the extreme. Again we say, be not duped by these imposters.”

German Attitudes 

“On April 26, 1853, the Prussian interior ministry issued the aforementioned Runderlass, a circular stating official government policy, that denied the Mormons legal status in Prussia and that, in effect, became a standing expulsion order that authorities used to harass, detain, and deport the church’s missionaries … Throughout the nineteenth century, Mormons clashed with German authorities over emigration, not only because of the emotional issue of German women becoming polygamous concubines, but also because of Mormon emigration’s effect on draft eligible men.”

Missionaries Lying About Polygamy 

In speaking of a convert named Jorgen:

“They told him that the only possible escape from his sin was to join the Mormon Church. "But," said Jorgen, "people say that Brigham Young is a polygamist. How do I know that Joseph Smith is not one of the false prophets of which the Bible speaks?" But the elder said that Brigham Young was not a polygamist, that polygamy was not a part of the Mormon system, and that the Book of Mormon opposed polygamy.”

The letters of an apostate Mormon to His Son by Hans P. Freece, pg. 19, pub. 1908

Nauvoo Expositor

They are visited again, and what is the result? They are requested to meet brother Joseph, or some of the Twelve, at some insulated point, or at some particularly described place on the bank of the Mississippi, or at some room, which wears upon its front— Positively NO admittance. The harmless, inoffensive, and unsuspecting creatures, are so devoted to the Prophet, and the cause of Jesus Christ, that they do not dream of the deep laid and fatal scheme which prostrates happiness, and renders death itself desirable, but they meet him, expecting to receive through him a blessing, and learn the will of the Lord concerning them, and what awaits the faithful follower of Joseph, the Apostle and Prophet of God, when in the stead thereof, they are told, after having been sworn in one of the most solemn manners, to never divulge what is revealed to them, with a penalty of death attached, that God Almighty has revealed it to him, that she should be his (Joseph’s) Spiritual wife; for it was right anciently, and God will tolerate it again: but we must keep those pleasures and blessings from the world, for until there is a change in the government, we will endanger ourselves by practicing it – but we can enjoy the blessings of Jacob, David, and others, as well as to be deprived of them, if we do not expose ourselves to the law of the land. She is thunder-struck, faints, recovers, and refuses. The Prophet damns her if she rejects. She thinks of the great sacrifice, and of the many thousand miles she has traveled over sea and land, that she might save her soul from pending ruin, and replies, God’s will be done, and not mine. The Prophet and his devotees in this way are gratified.


What did William Law mean?

With these two stories that William Law eludes to (on the banks of the Missisippi and the sign on the door), are the stories of Louisa Beaman and Martha Brotherton which we will discuss later.


“Our hearts have mourned and bled at the wretched and miserable condition of females in this place; many orphans have been the victims of misery and wretchedness, through the influence that has been exerted over them, under the cloak of religion and afterwards, in consequence of that jealous disposition which predominates over the minds of some, have been turned upon a wide world, fatherless and motherless, destitute of friends and fortune; and robbed of that which nothing but death can restore.” [Preamble]

Condition of Polygamous Wives 

“When flippant newspaper correspondents, after a visit to the valley of the Saints, go "away and write in terms of ridicule of the Mormon women, calling them fearfully ugly in looks, they little know what bitter, hard, cruel experiences have carved the deep lines round the eyes and mouths, and made the faces grow repulsive and grim, and taken from them all the softness, and tenderness, and grace which glorify a happy woman's face, even if she be ever so plain of feature. If these men, who write so carelessly, could only see the interior of the lives that they are touching with such a rough, rude hand, they might be, perhaps, a little more sympathetic in tone. It is no wonder that the women of Utah are not beautiful ; there is nothing in all their lives to glorify or beautify their faces, to add at all to their mental or physical charm or grace. They are pretty enough as children; as young girls they can compare favorably with any girls I have seen in the East; but just so soon as they reach womanhood the curse of polygamy is forced upon them, and from that moment their lives are changed, and they grow hard or die — one of the two — in their struggles to become inured to this unnatural life.” [Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, pg.395].

Joseph Smith Sex Trafficker? 

Trafficking, by definition, involves at least three people: 

  • the victim
  • the trafficker
  • and the buyer

Joseph Smith is certainly guilty of being a sexual predator, as he often approached these women himself, isolated them from family, sent their husbands on missions, and offered rewards if they accepted his advances and punishments if they did not.

There are some cases that can be argued that sex trafficking occured. These cases involved an “intermediary” or another person who coerced or convinced these women to become his spiritual wives.

Joseph Smith as a 

Polygamy "Transactions"

“On the Joseph Smith Papers Website, the church ‘softly admits that Bushman is right in his conclusions that these were transactions involving something that sounds awfully like payment’: 

"Having surveyed the available sources, historian Richard L. Bushman concludes that these polyandrous marriages—and perhaps other plural marriages of Joseph Smith—were primarily a means of binding other families to his for the spiritual benefit and mutual salvation of all involved.”” [From a commenter on exMormon reddit]

Fanny Alger

From Todd Compton: “Perhaps the most troublesome from a modern perspective is its ‘exchange of women’ theme. Smith offers Clarissa Reed to Levi Hancock in exchange for Fanny, Levi’s niece, commissioning Levi to obtain Fanny for him. Levi considers this assignment a ‘mission,’ and brings Fanny to Joseph, and is ‘given’ Clarissa” [pg. 41]

Evidence of Sexual Relations?

In a letter written January 21, 1838, Oliver Cowdery wrote:  “I did not fail to affirm that what I had said was strictly true. A dirty, nasty, filthy scrape [“affair” overwritten] of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I had never deviated from the truth on the matter” [Oliver Cowdery, Letter to Warren A. Cowdery, January 21, 1838].

William McLellin once said that: “[O]ne night she [Emma Smith] missed Joseph and Fanny Alger. She went to the barn and saw him and Fanny in the barn together alone. She looked through a crack and saw the transaction!! She told me this story too was verily true” [William McLellin, Letter to Joseph Smith III, July 1872, Community of Christ Archives]

From Wilhelm Wyl we hear that: “Joseph’s dissolute life began already in the first times of the church, in Kirtland. He was sealed there secretly to Fanny Alger. Emma was furious, and drove the girl, who was unable to conceal the consequences of her celestial relation with the prophet, out of her house” [Joseph Smith, the prophet, his family and his friends. A study based on facts and documents by Wilhelm Wyl, pg. 57].

Presendia Huntington

“Soon after Dimick had given our sisters Zina & Presendia to Joseph as wives for eternity,” wrote Oliver Huntington, Smith offered Dimick any reward he wanted. Dimick merely requested “that where you and your fathers family are, there I and my fathers family may be also” [Todd Compton, 122-123].

Louisa Beaman

“They are requested to meet brother Joseph, or some of the Twelve, at some insulated point, 
or at some particularly described place on the bank of the Mississippi..”

“He [Joseph Smith] then advised [Joseph Bates] Noble to seek a second wife for himself, and to commence at once to "build up his kingdom." He was not slow in following his Prophet's advice, and together the two men, with their chosen celestial brides, repaired one night to the banks of the Mississippi River, where Joseph sealed Noble to his first plural wife, and in return Noble performed the same office for the Prophet and his sister [Louisa Beaman]. These were the first plural marriages that ever took place in the Mormon Church, and they were obliged to be very secretly performed, and kept hidden afterwards.” [Ann Eliza Young, Wife No. 19, pg. 72-73].


Evidence for Sexual Relations?

In a court testimony given in 1892, Noble reported that after the marriage he said to Smith, “‘Blow out the lights and get into bed, and you will be safer there,’ and he took my advice.” Nobel, under cross-examination, clarified that he did not actually see the couple get into bed, but “he [Smith] told me he did.” There is no good reason to doubt that Louisa’s marriage to Smith included sexuality. Noble further testified under oath, “Question: where did they [Joseph and Louisa] sleep together? Answer: Right straight across the river at my house they slept together” [Joseph B. Noble, Deposition, Temple Lot Case, part 3, pages 396, 426–27, questions, 52–53, 681–704].

Helen Mar Kimball

From Helen Mar Kimball: "my father... having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet's own mouth. My father had but one Lamb but willingly laid her upon the altar; how cruel this seemed to the mother..the prophet ... said to me, ‘if you will take this step, it will ensure your eternal salvation & exaltation and that of our father's household a& all of your kindred.’ this promise was so great that I willingly gave myself to purchase so glorious a reward. None but God & his angels could see my mother's bleeding heart ... she saw the misery which was as sure to come as the sun was to rise and set; but it was all hidden from me” 

[Typescript and copy of holograph reproduced in Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History, 482–87.


Evidence for Sexual Relations?

Helen herself defined polygamy: “It was revealed to the latter that there were thousands of spirits, yet unborn, who were anxiously waiting for the privilege of coming down to take tabernacles of flesh, that their glory might be complete...which makes this plural wife system an actual necessity” [Helen Mar Whitney, Why We Practice Plural Marriage, pp. 7-8, Juvenile Instructor 1884].

She also wrote: “The principle was established by the Prophet Joseph Smith, and all who have entered into it in righteousness, have done so for the purpose of raising a righteous seed; and the object is that we may be restored back to that Eden from whence we fell. [Helen Mar Whitney, Why We Practice Plural Marriage, pp. 7-8]

Helen went on to write: "I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony. I was young, and they deceived me, by saying the salvation of our whole family depended on it” [Catharine Lewis, Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the Mormons, pg. 19, 1848]

Almera Johnson

Benjamin: “I sincerely believed him to a prophet of God, and I loved him as such, and also for the many evidences of his kindness to me, yet such was the force of my education, and the scorn that I felt towards anything unvirtuous that under the first impulse of my feelings, I looked him calmly, but firmly in the face and told him that, “I had always believed him to be a good man, and wished to believe it still, and would try to;”– and that, “I would take for him a message to my sister, and if the doctrine was true, all would be well, but if I should afterwards learn that it was offered to insult or prostitute my sister I would take his life.” 

With a smile he replied “Benjamin, you will never see that day, but you shall live to know that it is true, and rejoice in it.” 

[Andrew Jenson, The Historical Record, Vol. 6, pg. 221]


Evidence for Sexual Realtions?

In Almera W. Johnson’s affidavit dated August 1, 1883 she said: “I had been fearing and doubting about the principle and so had he, but he now knew it was true. After this time I lived with the Prophet Joseph Smith as his wife, and he visited me at the home of my brother Benjamin F. at Macedonia” [Almera W. Johnson, Affidavit, August 1, 1883; published in Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage, 71]

Benjamin said that: “...on the 15th of May Some three weeks later the Prophet again Came and at my house occupied the Same Room & Bed with my Sister” [Benjamin F Johnson Letter To George F Gibbs]

Emily Partridge

“Even those unsympathetic to Joseph will understand that Elizabeth, like all Mormon women, had accepted him as an infallible leader and that it was the intensity of her religiosity that led her to influence other women to enter polygamy” [Compton, 262]

Emily wrote: “Mrs. Durf– came to me one day and said Joseph would like an opportunity to talk with me. I asked her if she knew what he wanted. She said she thought he wanted me for a wife… I was to meet him in the evening at Mrs. Kimballs.”

Joseph and Emily were married that night. [Todd Compton, pg. 262]


Evidence for Sexual Relations

In the Temple Lot Case, Emily Partridge was questioned as follows:

Q. Had you roomed with him prior to … the night after you were married the last time? A. No sir, not roomed with him. Q. Well had you slept with him? A. Yes sir. Q. [Had you] slept with him … before the fourth of March 1843 [their marriage date]? A. No sir. Q. Did you ever live with Joseph Smith after you were married to him after that first night that you roomed together? A. No sir. Emma knew that we were married to him, but she never allowed us to live with him. Q. Do you make the declaration now that you ever roomed with him at any time A. Yes sir. Q Do you make the declaration that you ever slept with him in the same bed? A. Yes sir. Q. How many nights? A. One. Q. Only one night. A. Yes sir. Q. Then you only slept with him in the same bed one night? A. No sir. Q. Did you ever have carnal intercourse with Joseph Smith? A. Yes sir [Emily Dow Partridge Young, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Part 3, pp. 371, 384, questions 480–84, 747, 751-62.xx]

Sarah Ann Whitney

Joseph Smith received a revelation in July of 1842 that reads:

“Verily, thus saith the Lord unto my servant N. K. Whitney, the thing that my servant Joseph Smith has made known unto you and your family and which you have agreed upon is right in mine eyes and shall be rewarded upon your heads with honor and immortality and eternal life to all your house, both old and young because of the lineage of my Priesthood, saith the Lord, it shall be upon you and upon your children after you from generation to generation, by virtue of the holy promise which I now make unto you, saith the Lord.”


Evidence for Sexual Relations

The following month Joseph wrote a letter [dated 18, 1842] to the Whitney parents, telling them it was God’s will that they and Sarah, come and visit him. He even assured them that he had a room all to himself and told them to avoid being seen by Emma at all costs. And finally, he instructs them to burn the letter after reading it. Three days after doing this for Joseph, he seems to reward Newel with instructions to take another wife or wives [Compton, 350].

Joseph Smith as a 

Joseph Smith gave at least twenty-eight men “permission” to live celestial marriage [Bergera]. Such unions had to be sanctioned by Joseph Smith. If you were caught living “spiritual wifery,” (basically the same thing but without Joseph’s permission) you were punished [see W. W. Phelps, John C. Bennett, etc].

In these cases of “celestial marriage” –Joseph giving women away to certain male members of the church –it could be argued that as prophet, he acted as a sex trafficker.

This was later changed under Brigham Young who thought that ALL men, in order to be exalted, had to participate in celestial marriage (making spiritual wifery, polygamy, etc. all the same thing.)

Joseph Smith was in charge of polygamy

Messenger and Advocate

..The Mormon church responded to the idea of plural marriage with a resolution denying fellowship to any member guilty of polygamy and it even disciplined one Solomon Freeman for "living with another woman." [George D. Smith, Dialogue: Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy, pg. 130]

“..We will have no fellowship whatsoever with any Elder belonging to the quorums of the Seventies who is guilty of polygamy or any offence of the kind, and who does not in all things conform to the laws of the church contained in the Bible and in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.”

Sarah Peak Noon

Joseph taught Heber about polygamy and at first Heber thought of marrying two elder women that would cause “little if any unhappiness” for his wife. However, Joseph had already picked out Heber’s wife. Her name was Sarah Peak Moon, she was a thirty-five year old English convert. Additionally, Joseph forbade Heber from telling his wife concerning the arrangement. 

According to Orson Pratt, “Heber was told by Joseph that if he did not do this he would lose his apostleship and be damned” [Compton, 496].

Todd Compton goes on to say that: “So often, Joseph Smith taught polygamy as a requirement, and to reject it was to lose one’s eternal soul. Once he had accepted him as a prophet, one had to comply or accept damnation” [Compton, 496].


Evidence for Intimacy?

Sarah was Heber Chase Kimball's first plural wife. She married Heber Chase Kimball about 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois. They had the following children:

  1. Adelbert Kimball (1842–1843)
  2. Henry Kimball (1844- c.1868)
  3. Sarah Helen Kimball (1 July 1845-1 December 1860)
  4. Heber Kimball (1849–1850)

Martha Brotherton

From John C. Bennett we hear the story of Martha Brotherton: “Miss Brotherton is a very good-looking, amiable, and accomplished English lady, of highly respectable parentage, cultivated intellect, and spotless moral character. She was selected as one of the victims for the Cloister in order to be consecrated to apostolic brutality…”

In her own words she goes on to say that: “When we reached the building, he led me up some stairs to a small room, the door of which was locked, and on it the following inscription : ‘Positively no admittance.'

She goes in and is introduced to Joseph by Brigham, except immediately afterward Joseph leaves and Brigham young locks her in the room with him. Brigham tells her of polygamy and proposes that they get married that day. With no luck, Brigham has Joseph return and they both proceed to try and convince her of polygamy. Joseph stated that: “If you will accept Brigham you shall be blessed –God shall bless you, and my blessing shall rest upon you; and if you will be led by him, you will do well, you will do well; for I know Brigham will take care of you, and if he don't do his duty to you, come to me, and I will take him; and if you do not like it in a month or two, come to me, and I will make you free again; and if he turns you off, I will take you on.” Martha does not end up marrying Brigham. [John C. Bennett, History of the Saints, pg. 236-240]

Margaret Moon

According to the President of Signature Books, George D. Smith:

By the time [William] Clayton first mentions plural marriage in early 1843, he had been married to his legal wife Ruth for six years and had three children. Smith called at his home and invited Clayton for a walk, during which he said he had learned of a sister back in England to whom Clayton was "very much attached." Clayton acknowledged the friendship, but "nothing further than an attachment such as a brother and sister in the Church might rightfully entertain for each other." The prophet then suggested, "Why don't you send for her?" Clayton replied, "In the first place, I have no authority to send for her, and if I had, I have not the means to pay expenses."

Smith answered, "I give you authority to send for her, and I will furnish you with means," which, according to Clayton, he did. Noting that this day in early 1843 was the first time the prophet had talked with him "on the subject of plural marriage," Clayton recalled the prophet's further sanction: "It is your privilege to have all the wives you want.” 

[Dialogue: Nauvoo Roots of Mormon Polygamy by George D. Smith, pg. 134]


Evidence of Sexual Relations

William Clayton and Margaret Moon were “married” on April 27, 1843 and from what I could find they had six children together. 

  1. Daniel Albert Clayton (Feb. 1844)
  2. Joseph Thomas Clayton (Jan. 1847)
  3. Lydia Arahbella Clayton (March 1849)
  4. James LeRoy Clayton (June 1852)
  5. Lovinia Tracilla Dunford (Dec 1854)
  6. Don Carlos Clayton (Oct. 1857)

Actual Cases of Sex Trafficking

"Allison Mack released early from prison after pleading guilty in NXIVM sex-trafficking case"

On July 6, 2023, it was posted that “television actor Allison Mack, who pleaded guilty for her role in a sex-trafficking case tied to the cult-like group NXIVM, has been released from a California prison, according to a government website.”

“Mack helped prosecutors mount evidence showing how Raniere created a secret society that included brainwashed women who were branded with his initials and forced to have sex with him”

[Link to article]


"Ghislaine Maxwell Charged With Sex Trafficking of 14-Year-Old Girl"

Ghislaine Maxwell, the longtime associate of Jeffrey Epstein, was charged on Monday for the first time with sex trafficking of a minor, as federal prosecutors accused her of grooming a 14-year-old girl to engage in sexual acts with Mr. Epstein and later paying her.

[Link to article]

If we change the wording…

“Elizabeth Durfee, a longtime associate of Joseph Smith, was charged with sex trafficking a nineteen year old woman. She was accused of grooming this woman to engage in sexual acts with Mr. Smith with the promise of eternal glory.”

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