Different historians recognize a different number of wives for Joseph Smith. Todd Compton recognizes thirty wives, George D. Smith recognize thirty-seven wives, while Fawn Brodie recognizes forty-eight. The Joseph Smith's Polygamy website lists thirty-five wives. For the sake of this website, I shall list each wife and go over the evidence for them.
Emma Hale was Joseph Smith's first and only legal wife. They married on January 17, 1827 when she was twenty-two years old.
Fanny worked at the Smith home and was dear friends with Emma when Joseph secretly took her to wife. Compton dates their marriage to 1833.
Joseph and Lucinda were married in 1838. Previously, Lucinda was married to William Morgan, an anti-mason who was martyrd. She afterward married George Harris. After living with the Harris' for two months, they got married.
Louisa is known as "Mormonism's First Plural Wife" probably because Fanny and Lucinda both left the church. Joseph and Louisa were married in 1841.
Joseph propositioned Zina before she was married to Henry, but she turned the prophet down (he was already married to Emma). When she was eight months pregnant, Joseph Smith propositioned her again saying that an angel was threatening him to live the law of polygamy.
Presendia was married to Norman Buell, who eventually left the Church. Joseph asked Dimick Huntington, Presendia's brother, to ask for Presendia's hand in polygamy on his behalf.
Agnes is one of the rare cases (one of four) in which Joseph took a widow as one of his spiritual wife. This was known as a Levirate marriage, taking from the Old Testament.
Sylvia's confession to her daughter is one of the strongest pieces of evidence that Joseph Smith was having sexual relations with his polygamous wives.
Joseph told Mary Elizabeth that God had instructed him to take her as a polygamous wife. Mary Elizabeth recalls her own unique spiritual confirmation for polygamy.
Patty Sessions was one of the few women Joseph married that were older. Joseph would do this, typically, so that these older women could help teach or convince the younger wives of polygamy.
There is a rumor that Joseph Smith would send men on missions so that he could marry their wives. Marinda is where this story came from.
Elizabeth was another older wife, that helped convince women that polygamy was correct. For example, she helped convince Emily Partridge to marry Joseph Smith.
Lucy Walker was only sixteen when Joseph Smith sealed himself to her. Lucy struggled with accepted the doctrine and felt alone as her Mother had passed away and her father was on his mission. Lucy even felt suicidal. But, in time, Lucy came to accept the doctrine saying that an angel had visited her.
Helen Mar Kimball was only fourteen years old when Joseph took her as his polygamous wife. She described the experience in a very vivid way. In speaking of being given as a spiritual wife at fourteen she said, "My father had but one Ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter."
Fanny Young was the oldest of Joseph's spiritual wives.
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Join with Jenn Kamp and America and myself as we discuss the first five wives of Joseph Smith on Our Truth Be Told Podcast.
Join with Jenn Kamp, America, and myself as we discuss Joseph Smith's sixth wife to his tenth wife on Our Truth Be Told Podcast.
Join with Jenn Kamp, American and myself as we discuss Joseph Smith's 11th wife to his 15th wife on Our Truth Be Told Podcast.
According to Sarah Pratt, who many see as unreliable because of her biases, Joseph Smith did indeed visit brothels.
"I have told you that the prophet Joseph used to frequent houses of ill-fame. Mrs. White, a very pretty and attractive woman, once confessed to me that she made a business of it to be hospitable to the captains of the Mississippi steamboats. She told me that Joseph had made her acquaintance very soon after his arrival in Nauvoo, and that he had visited her dozens of times. My husband (Orson Pratt) could not be induced to believe such things of his prophet. Seeing his obstinate incredulity, Mrs. White proposed to Mr. Pratt and myself to put us in a position where we could observe what was going on between herself and Joseph the prophet. We, however, declined this proposition. You have made a mistake in the table of contents of your book in calling this woman 'Mrs. Harris.' Mrs. Harris was a married lady, a very great friend of mine. When Joseph had made his dastardly attempt on me, I went to Mrs. Harris to unbosom my grief to her. To my utter astonishment, she said, laughing heartily: * How foolish you are ! I don't see anything so horrible in it. Why, I AM HIS MISTRESS SINCE FOUR YEARS!"
[Mrs. Harris is Lucinda Pendleton Harris, Joseph Smith's second plural wife. Evidently Joseph Smith proposed polygamy to Sarah Pratt sometime in 1842. Joseph and Lucinda married in 1838.]
"Next door to my house was a house of bad reputation. One single woman lived there, not very attractive. She used to be visited by people from Carthage whenever they came to Nauvoo. Joseph used to come on horseback, ride up to the house and tie his horse to a tree, many of which stood before the house. Then he would enter the house of the woman from the back. I have seen him do this repeatedly."
4th. Mrs. Sarah M. Pratt, wife of Professor Orson Pratt, of the University of the city of Nauvoo. Joe Smith stated to me at an early day in the history of that city, that he intended to make that amiable and accomplished lady one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him, and he requested me to assist him in consummating his hellish purposes, but I told him that I would not do it -- that she had been much neglected and abused by the church during the absence of her husband in Europe, and that if the Lord had given her to him he must attend to it himself. I will do it, said he, for there is no harm in it if her husband should never find it out. I called upon Mrs. Pratt and told that Joe contemplated an attack on her virtue, in the name of the Lord, and that she must prepare to repulse him in so infamous an assault. She replied, "Joseph cannot be such a man. I cannot believe it until I know it for myself or have it from his own lips; he cannot be so corrupt." Well, I replied, you will see unless he changes his mind; accordingly in a few days Joe proposed to me to go to Ramus with him. I consented to go, and we started from his house about 4 o'clock P. M., rode into the prairie a few miles, and returned to the house of Captain John T. Barnett, in Nauvoo, about dusk, where we put up the horse with Barnett's permission. He, Joe, pretended we were looking for thieves. We then proceeded to the house where Mrs. Pratt resided, and Joe commenced discourse as follows: "Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as he granted holy men of old, and I have long looked upon you with favor, and hope you will not deny me." She replied: "I care not for the blessings of Jacob, and I believe in no such revelations, neither will I consent under any circumstances. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me." Joe could not come it! He then went off to see Miss _____ at the house of Mrs. Sherman. He remained with her an hour or two and then returned to Barnett's, harnessed our horse, started for Ramus, and arrived at Carthage at early breakfast. We then went to Ramus, and returned to Carthage that night, and put up at the house of Esq. Comer. Next day we returned to Nauvoo. I called upon Mrs. Pratt and asked her what she thought of Joseph? She replied, "He is a bad man beyond a doubt." Mrs. Pratt in a conversation with Mrs. Goddard, wife of Stephen H. Goddard, said, "Sister Goddard, Joseph is a corrupt man; I know it, for he made an attempt upon me." Three times afterwards he tried to convince Mrs. Pratt of the propriety of his doctrine, and she at last told him: "Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will tell Mr. Pratt on his return home. I will certainly do it." Joe replied, "Sister Pratt, I hope you will not expose me; if I am to suffer, all suffer; so do not expose me. Will you agree not to do so?" "If," said she, "you will never insult me again, I will not expose you unless strong circumstances require it." "Well, sister Pratt," says Joe, "as you have refused me; it becomes sin, unless sacrifice is offered;" and turning to me he said, "General, if you are my friend I wish you to procure a lamb, and have it slain, and sprinkle the door posts and the gate with its blood, and take the kidneys and entrails and offer them upon an altar of twelve stones that have not been touched with a hammer, as a burnt offering, and it will save me and my priesthood. Will you do it?" I will, I replied. So I procured the lamb from Captain John T. Barnett, and it was slain by Lieutenant Stephen H. Goddard, and I offered the kidneys and entrails in sacrifice for Joe as he desired; and Joe said, "all is now safe -- the destroying angel will pass over, without harming any of us." Time passed on in apparent friendship until Joe grossly insulted Mrs. Pratt again, after her husband had returned [home], by approaching and kissing her. This highly offended her, and she told Mr. Pratt, who was much enraged and went and told Joe never to offer an insult of the like again. Joe replied, "I did not desire to kiss her, * Bennett made me do it!" Joe, you can't come it! Mrs. Pratt is far above your foul and polluted breath, your calumny and detraction. I now appeal to Mrs. Pratt if this is not true to the very letter. Just speak out boldly.
* We have omitted several names in this letter, being unwilling to injure the feelings of individuals unnecessarily. Their names however can be seen in the original manuscript by any person who desires to do so. Editor Journal.
Joe Smith in a speech in Nauvoo on Thursday the 14th inst. (and which was heard by two gentlemen of our city,) said -- "He wished Bennett was in Hell! -- he had given him more trouble than any man he ever had to do with." Joe was undoubtedly sincere in this expression of his wishes.
In the same speech he declared that Mrs. Pratt, the wife of Mr. O. Pratt. "had been a _ _ _ _ _ from her Mother's breast." This was the lady which Bennett says Joe attempted to seduce, and who resisted all his efforts with the heroism of insulted virtue.
In what a horrid and depraved condition society must be in Nauvoo? We should suppose that Judge Ford's friends would be ashamed of their allies, by whose votes they wish to elect him Governor of Illinois.
Tonight after my days work, we all attended the regular anniversary Party of President John Taylor in the 14th ward assembly Hall, at which Presidents Wilford Woodruff and George Q. Cannon and other of the General Authorities were present, and at which Presidents Woodruff and Cannon related how President Taylor was tried as Abraham of Old, by the Prophet Joseph Smith just after the revelation on Plurality of wives was received, at a special meeting of the Twelve when the prophet explained the revelation to them, a number
of the Twelve were very reluctant and in fact felt they could not support such a offensive[?] principal, and John Taylor was the only one who stood up for the Prophet and a short time after this, the Prophet went to the home of President Taylor, and said to him, “Brother John, I WANT LEONORA, PRESIDENT’S Wife.[“] [O]f all the requests coming from the Prophet, this was the last straw; it is said. John Taylor never answered the prophet, turned away and walked the floor all night, but the next morning, went to the home of the Prophet’s [sic] and said to him, Brother Joseph, IF GOD Wants Leonora He can have her. That was all the prophet was after to see where President Taylor stood in the matter, and said to him, Brother Taylor, I dont want your wife, I just wanted to know just where you stood.
[Prophet Wilford Woodruff, John Mills Whitaker, Autobiography and Journals, 1883-1960, November 1, 1890]
"Mrs. Leonora Taylor, first and legal wife of the present head of the church, and aunt of George Q. Cannon, told ladies who still reside in this city, that all the wives of the twelve were, in fact, consecrated to the Lord, that is, to his servant, Joseph; and that Joseph's demands, and her husband's soft compliance so exasperated her as to cause her 'the loss of a finger and of a baby,' The latter she lost by a premature delivery, being at the time in a delicate condition, and in her fury for help, having thrust her clenched fist through a window-pane, lost one of her fingers..."
"1st of May cut my finger with glass it got very bad my dear Child took sick, my sweet baby died on the 9th of Sept. buried the 10th on the 14th I had the middle finger of my left hand taken off, and buried with my Baby, I had many tryals about this time
but I am yet alive."
[Leonora Cannon Taylor, Diary, in George John Taylor Papers, [inclusive dates? 1833-1844], MS 2936, LDS Church History Library]
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