Sexual Relations

Joseph Smith 
& his polygamous wives

What is the evidence that Joseph Smith had sexual relationships with his polygamous wives? What is the evidence that he had sexual relations with his polyandrous wives?



Fanny Alger

Joseph Smith's first polygamous wife

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].

Lucinda Pendleton

Joseph Smith's second plural wife

In an interview with Wilhelm Wyl, Sarah Pratt stated:

“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!'”

[Wilhelm Wyl, Joseph Smith the Prophet, His family and Friends: A study Based on Fact and Documents (Salt lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886), 60.]

Louisa Beaman

Joseph Smith's third polygamous wife

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].

Zina Huntington

Joseph Smith's fourth polygamous wife

In an interview with John Wight, Zina told him: 

“It was something too sacred to be talked about; it was more to me than life or death. I never breathed it for years.”

[John Wight, “Interview: Evidence from Zina D. Huntington Young,” Saints Herald 52 (11 Jan. 1905):29]

“When I heard that God had revealed the law of celestial marriage… I obtained a testimony for [my]self that God had required that order to be established in his church. I made a greater sacrifice than to give my life for I never anticipated again to be looked upon as an honorable woman by those I dearly loved.”

[Zina. D. H. Young, Biographical Sketch undated, Zina Card Brown Collection, MS 4780, Box 2, fd 17, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City.]

In Ann Eliza Webb’s book Wife No. 19, she wrote, 

One woman said to me not very long since, while giving me some of her experiences in polygamy: "The greatest trial I ever endured in my life was living with my husband and deceiving him, by receiving Joseph's attentions whenever he chose to come to me."

[Ann Eliza Webb Young, Wife No. 19 (Hartford, CT: Dustin, Gilman, and Co., 1876), 71.]

Ann Eliza does not specifically name which of Joseph’s wives she was allegedly quoting. However, her mother, Eliza Jane Churchill Webb, repeated the accusation in two private letters a year later specifying that Zina Diantha Huntington was the woman.

Eliza Jane’s version of this account is: “There are women living in Utah now who were sealed to Joseph while living with their husbands, and they say it was the greatest trial of their lives to live with two men at the same time” [Eliza Jane Webb, Letter Mary Bond, April 24, 1876].

Four months afterwards, she clarified: “There is Zina,—whose maiden name was Huntington. She says the greatest trial of her life was, to live with her husband and Joseph too at the same time” [Eliza J. Webb Letter to Mary Bond, August 27, 1876.]

Presendia Huntington

Joseph Smith's fifth polygamous wife

“I heard the latter woman [Presendia] say afterwards in Utah, that she did not know whether Mr. Buel or the Prophet was the father of her son” [Nelson Winch Green, Fifteen Years Among the Mormons: Being the Narrative of Mrs. Mary Ettie V. Smith (New York: Charles Scribner, 1858), 35.] 

Edwin or John Hiram could have been the son spoken of.

Sylvia Sessions

Joseph Smith's seventh polygamous wife

“Just prior to my mothers death in 1882 she called me to her bedside and told me that her days on earth were numbered and before she passed away from mortality she desired to tell  me something which she now desired to communicate to me. She told me that I was the daughter of the Prophet Joseph Smith, she having been sealed to the Prophet at the time that her husband Mr. Lyon was out of fellowship with the Church.” [Josephine L. Fisher, Affidavit, February 24, 1915, Church History Library, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Salt Lake City, Utah. See also Danel W. Bachman, “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage Before the Death of Joseph Smith” (MA thesis, Purdue University, 1975), 141; and Richard S. Van Wagoner “Mormon Polyandry in Nauvoo,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 18, no. 3 (Fall 1985): 78, n. 12.]

Sylvia was married BEFORE Windsor was excommunicated. Josephine is Windsor’s child. This “shows that Sylvia believed that Josephine was Smith’s daughter, and it is convincing evidence that Smith had sexual relations with his wives.”

Mary Elizabeth Rollins

Joseph Smith's eighth polygamous wife

“I have never told a mortal and shall never tell a mortal I had such a talk from a married man” [Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner, MS 29376, Box 1, fd 9, 4, LDS Church History Library, Salt Lake City.]

“If I could have an opportunity of conversing with you, and Brother Joseph [F. Smith] I could explain some things in regard to my living with Mr. L[ightner], after becoming the wife of another which would throw light, on what now seems mysterious –and you would be perfectly satisfied with me. I write this; because I have heard that it had been commented on to my injury. I have done the best I could, and Joseph will sanction my action –I cannot explain things in this letter –some day you will know all. That is, if I ever have an opportunity of conversing with either of you” [Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to John Henry Smith, 25 Jan., 1892, in G. A. Smith Family Papers, MS 36, Box 7, fd 12, Marriott Library, University of Utah, Salt Lake City.]

“I could tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with” [Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner to Emmeline B. Wells, 21 Nov. 1905, 4, Mary Elizabeth Rollins Lightner Collection, MS 29376, Box 1, LDS Church History LIbrary, Salt Lake City].

Patty Bartlett Sessions

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Marinda Nancy Johnson Hyde

Joseph Smith's tenth polygamous wife

“He …slept at his mother-in-law’s, who was a Mormon, when Joseph Smith slept with Orson Hyde’s wife, under the same roof.”

[William Arrowsmith statement, 27 March 1849, Augusta, Lee County, Iowa, in John Bowes, Mormonism Exposed (London: R. Bulman, 1850), 63.]

Eliza R. Snow

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Sarah Ann Whitney

Joseph Smith's fifteenth polygamous wife

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 [Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 350].

Flora Ann Woodworth

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Emily Dow Partridge

Joseph Smith's nineteenth wife

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]

Almera Woodward Johnson

Joseph Smith's twenty-first polygamous wife

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]

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