Louisa was Joseph Smith's third plural wife.
This is a summary video of Louisa Beaman.
Louisa Beaman was the first widely recognized plural wife of Joseph Smith.
She was born on February 7, 1815 and was the seventh of eight siblings. The first five never converted to Mormonism, but the ones closest to her would have strong Mormon histories (Mary Adeline married Joseph Bates Noble, who officiated Joseph and Louisa’s marriage; and Artemisia married Erastus Snow, a later Apostle).
What survives of Louisa are a few letters and journal entries from other people (such as Heber C. Kimball, Zina Huntington, Eliza R. Snow, and other prominent Mormon elite women).
Treasure Digging Days
There is a story in Mormon history that when Joseph was working with the treasure diggers, two of his comrades came into his house and demanded that they deserved a share of the “treasure” found in the Hill Cumorah. One of the men used a divining rod to discover that Joseph Smith had hidden the plates beneath the hearth. This man was Louisa's father, Alvah and the other comrade was Samuel Lawrence, both fellow treasure seekers in Joseph Smith’s early days.
After Joseph had reported having the plates, Alvah and Lawrence felt that they deserved a percentage of the profit. At some point, Alvah was converted to the idea of the plates having a more religious meaning and became one of the earliest disciples of Mormonism. According to Mary Beaman, he once handled the plates with a cloth over them and on one occasion helped Smith to conceal them. (Louisa would have been twelve at this time while Joseph was twenty-one).
Pattern of Living in the same house
In 1829 Alvah sold his farm and moved to Avon, New York and while there he purchased the first Book of Mormon seen in that area.
In the Spring of 1834 Joseph Smith Jr., with friends, stayed for a few days in the Beaman home in Avon. Concerning the prophet Joseph Smith, Louisa’s sister, Mary, record that “his society I prized, his conversation was meat and drink to me.” It is possible that Louisa felt the very same way.
In 1837, at the age of 62, Alvah Beaman passed away. Afterward, Louisa makes her first appearance in the historical record from Heber C. Kimball’s journal which states that she traveled to Missouri or “Zion” with some of her family members.
Pattern of Male Intermediary
In the fall of 1840, according to Joseph Bates Noble (her brother-in-law), Joseph Smith taught him “the principle of celestial or plural marriage, or a plurality of wives,” saying that an angel had given him a revelation on the subject and that “the angel of the Lord had commanded him (Smith) to move forward in the said order of marriage.”
Smith then asked Noble to officiate in marrying Louisa to himself. The prophet said, “In revealing this to you, I have placed my life in your hands, therefore do not in an evil hour betray me to my enemies.”
Louisa’s Marriage to Joseph Smith
According to Brigham Young family tradition: “Sister Louisa asked the Lord in fervent prayer for a testimony concerning the principle. The Lord heard her supplication and granted her request, and after being convinced that the principle had emanated from God, she accepted it. And was married to the prophet Joseph Smith.”
The ceremony took place on April 5, 1841, Louisa was 26 and Joseph 35. Erastus Snow (apostle and brother-in-law) said that she married the Mormon prophet “in a grove near Main Street in the City of Nauvoo, the Prophet Joseph dictating the ceremony and Brother Noble repeating it after him.” Louisa was disguised as a man during the ceremony.
Did Louisa’s marriage to Joseph Smith include a physical relationship?
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.”
What became of Louisa?
After Joseph’s death, Louisa married Brigham Young and joined together with many Mormon elite women in Utah. Louisa gave blessings, spoke in tongues, and is present in many of the diaries of Brigham Young’s other wives. She was dear friends with Eliza R. Snow and Zina Huntington. She worked as a dressmaker.
In 1846, she bore a pair of twins to Brigham Young (their names Joseph and Hyrum) but they died as infants. Early the following year, Louisa gave birth to another son (named Moroni). He passed away in August 10th of that same year. In July of 1848, Louisa gave birth to another set of twins (Alvah and Alma). Alvah died on October 11th and a month later on November 16th Alma also passed away.
Louisa first started noticing signs of breast cancer in March of 1849. She passed away May 16th, 1850. She was 35 years old.
Earlier this year, Don Bradley gave a presentation at the FAIR conference attempting to push Louisa's marriage date back to sometime in 1842. This, he argues, would mean that Joseph Smith started taking already married and already pregnant women as his plural wives in Nauvoo before transitioning to taking single women. He argues that this would change Joseph Smith's motivations for polygamy away from sex. I joined with Carah Burrell, or Nuancehoe, and gave a response to Bradley's research.
One of Don Bradley's main arguments is that the medical idea during the 1800s is that men did NOT have sexual intercourse with pregnant women, believing that doing so would cause harm to the baby.
However, in the book "A System of Midwifery" published in Philadelphia in 1841 by a Dr. Edward Rigby, we see on page 144 the following:
"Too frequent sexual intercourse during the early months of pregnancy is peculiarly liable to excite abortion."
So the medical practice of the 1800s, according to this doctor, was that too frequent sex too early on could cause harm to the baby. The way I'm understanding this, is that Joseph Smith marrying women who were seven, eight, nine months pregnant (as was the case with Zina Huntington and Mary Elizabeth Lightner), would make them perfect candidates for sexual intercourse. They're too far along in their pregnancy to cause harm and the "too frequent" part would be not likely be a problem and they're already married so Joseph is less likely to be found out participating in this secret practice.
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