Truth, Honesty and Moderation in Mormon History: A Response to Anderson, Faulring and Bachman’s Reviews of In Sacred Loneliness
Todd M. Compton
first published on the internet, July 2001
Conservative / Liberal / Moderate
Bias? Genesis of In Sacred Loneliness
Publication Background of In Sacred Loneliness
Moderate/Conservative Elements in In Sacred Loneliness
Responses to Anderson/Faulring:
The Theme of Sacred Loneliness
Sexual Relations in Joseph Smith’s Plural Marriages
Helen Mar Kimball Smith Whitney
Sexuality in the Polyandrous Marriages
The Number of Joseph Smith’s Wives
Anderson and Faulring Questioning the Reliability of Andrew Jenson
The Date of Fanny Alger’s Marriage
The Lawrence sisters and William Law
Did Emma Know of Joseph Smith’s Marriages?
Positive and Negative Evidence for Polygamy
Responses to Bachman:
Responding to the Prologue
Why so many wives?
Civil marriages — “illegal,” earthly, lower
Pre-existence and Polyandry
Accusations of Editing Out Non-Tragic Elements of Women’s Lives
Speculation in Historical Writing
Minor, Ancillary Issues:
George Harris and the Nauvoo Expositor (Bachman)
High Council (Anderson/Faulring)
The Wording of the Plural Marriage Ceremony
Typecasting as “Naturalistic”
Conservative / Moderate / Liberal / Radical: “Middle” Views of Revelation
The Moderate in the LDS Church
This is a response to the two reviews of my In Sacred Loneliness found in Farms Review of Books, Volume 10, Number 2, 1998, the first by Richard Lloyd Anderson and Scott Faulring, pp. 67-104, and the second by Danel Bachman, pp. 105-137. I submitted an earlier version of this response to the Farms Review of Books, but the editor showed a marked lack of enthusiasm for publishing it, so I decided to publish it myself.
These are basically negative reviews, though Anderson and Faulring include a few positive sentences. I am sorry that I was not able to write a book that any of the three reviewers could recommend, but I have always realized that there would be segments of the Mormon audience that would not embrace my book with unalloyed enthusiasm. I should say at the outset that my book is certainly not perfect, and it will not be the final word on the subject, so I welcome constructive criticism and further research on the same and related topics, and good faith discussion of issues found in my book. I certainly do not expect everyone to agree with me at all times. Of course, my book represents my best judgment based on all the relevant evidence I was able to find, so I will usually stick with that judgment, unless there is significant new information or a new and convincing interpretation emerges. Therefore it should be no surprise that I disagree with these reviewers on most of their critiques. However, on occasion Anderson, Faulring and Bachman have brought up issues that deserve careful inspection, and I am grateful that their disagreement has allowed me to re-examine the issues again.
At times these reviewers’ tone shaded toward polemic, ad hominem attack, which is extremely unfortunate. Ad hominem attack does not require careful scholarship, doing your homework; it merely requires a few colorful, extreme adjectives or associations. For a scholar, it is the lazy way out. It is unfortunate that writers representing the Church Educational System (Bachman), the BYU Religion Department (Anderson) and FARMS/Joseph Fielding Smith Institute for Latter-day Saint History (Faulring) should feel the need to use ad hominem attack rather than seriously entering into the discussion of Joseph Smith and his plural wives. Anderson and Faulring, ignoring my numerous criticisms of Brodie, portrayed me as a writer in Brodie’s school, a psychohistorian with naturalistic (atheistic, by the standard, dictionary definition of “naturalism,” see below) perspectives. Bachman also stated that I was a proponent of a naturalistic (atheistic) world view, and portrayed me as a John C. Bennett (the apostate, ex-General Authority who wrote a shallow anti-Mormon exposé of Joseph Smith), Eber Howe (a writer of one of the first overtly anti-Mormon books) and even early Christian Gnostic Marcion (who taught that the God of the Old Testament was evil). The characterizations of me as atheistic I find completely mystifying, as I overtly stated in my book that I was a practicing Mormon who believed in God and the supernatural. I will respond to the ad hominem aspects of Anderson, Faulring and Bachman’s responses at greater length below.
This is my credo, as a Mormon who looks on himself as believing, and as a historian who tries to be honest and balanced:
I believe that all truth is faith-promoting, if we’re talking about authentic faith. No authentic truth damages authentic faith. Truth, even difficult truths, will only deepen and give breadth of vision to authentic faith. Only brittle, oversimplified faith will break easily when confronted with difficult truths. When we face difficult truths, we should not sensationalize them, but we should deal with them straightforwardly and honestly, using historical context and sympathetic insight to put them into perspective. Sometimes, when we have had oversimplified faith, we will need to deepen and broaden our faith to include tragedy and contradiction and human limitation, but that is not a matter of giving up our faith — it is a matter of developing our faith. I realize that this can be a painful process at times, but it is a process that gives our faith more solidity and more breadth. The eye of faith sees greater depth, perspectives, and gradations of color; the heart of faith responds more to the tragedies of our bygone brothers and sisters, who become more real and more sympathetic to us.
I believe that the gospel includes all truth, and all truth is part of the gospel.
I believe that the gospel is afraid of no truth. All truths, both the brightness of love and the shadows of tragedy, contribute to the infinite beauty of the gospel.
The gospel includes heights and depths. It includes shining, dazzling light, and darkest shadow — and everything in between, all shades of gray. It includes knowledge of God, but it also includes knowledge of Satan. It includes knowledge of great and good men and women, and of deeply flawed men and women. It also includes men and women who have great goodness and serious flaws at the same time — sometimes, seemingly, on alternate days. It includes aspects of reality that are supposedly “secular” — science, economics, music, history. (See D&C 93:53.)
It includes such standard “problem” areas in Mormon history as different accounts of the First Vision; folk magic in the Book of Mormon translation; the textual history of the Doctrine and Covenants; Joseph Smith’s polygamy; the Mountain Meadows Massacre; speculative doctrines taught by Brigham Young that have not survived into the modern church; post-Manifesto polygamy; non-egalitarian attitudes held by some leaders; different interpretations of the Word of Wisdom. The documentation for these issues is all true; these events are all part of the gospel. (Much else is also part of the gospel, including examples of selfless heroism on the part of Mormon pioneers; quiet endurance of many Mormons as they suffered persecutions; Mormon leaders and husbands treating their wives with sensitivity as equal partners; Mormons quietly, harmoniously working together in communitarian societies out of devotion to the highest principles of Christ’s gospel; President Kimball’s receiving the inspiration giving priesthood status to blacks.) How you make “problem issues” part of the gospel is one question; but the idea that you should just shunt them to the side and ignore them is a stance that betrays a lack of faith in the breadth and strength of the gospel. In addition, such a stance, given our church’s high ideals, is simply dishonest. (And, in addition, absurdly impractical. Non- Mormon scholars have begun to study Mormonism seriously; will we hope that they will simply follow a gentleman’s agreement to ignore such crucial events as Joseph Smith’s first vision, his method of translating the Book of Mormon, his marriages and innovative marriage doctrines, Brigham Young’s doctrinal ideas, the Church’s transition from polygamous to monogamous organization?)
For extreme conservatives, who believe in a view of the gospel in which all church leaders always make the right decision, and for whom church leaders never disagree among themselves, these issues conflict head-on with a fragile, impractical oversimplified gospel; therefore, their only option is to ignore these issues entirely — both on an individual level (not researching and thinking about these issues in their own minds, hearts and spirits) and on an organizational level. You preserve an absolute silence, not admitting that any of these problem-issues happened. You discourage others from thinking about and researching these issues. And when they do, even if they are trying to deal with the issues within a context of faith, you try to change the playing field by labeling the historians as the problems, rather than grappling with the problem issues themselves.
However, the gospel is more complex, and more beautiful, and possessing more depth, than extreme conservatives give it credit for. When they create an oversimplified, narrow, sentimentally idealized, shallow view of the gospel, and orient their faith toward that oversimplified view, obviously the primary historical documents, and anyone who reflects those primary documents honestly, will undermine such shallow faith. The fault is not the historian who reflects that complexity of historical reality in line with the documents in the archives and the infinite complexity of true faith. The fault is the extreme conservatives who live by, and demand that others accept, an oversimplified view of the gospel.
Granted, many church members and leaders accept such oversimplified views of the gospel, and strive to make to make such views the “official,” untouchable version. But to the extent they do, they are doing the church and their faith a disservice, because they are propounding a version of faith that is unworkable.
To give an example. According to one of his biographers, Joseph Smith was about six feet tall. Let’s say that a church member — who sincerely wants to build people’s faith — decides he will portray Joseph Smith as 6 foot 7 inches in a historical movie. This is incorrect, but the 6 foot 7 idea catches on, becomes current in the church. To some people, Joseph Smith as 6 foot 7 becomes a cherished part of their testimony. However, a historian — who let’s say is also a church member — comes across Joseph Smith’s burial record, that gives his height correctly as about 6 foot. The historian publishes an article showing Joseph Smith’s true height. The media picks up the story and the movie writer, believing he has a mission as a defender of the faith, denounces the historian as malevolently diminishing people’s faith in Joseph Smith.
Now who is right and who is wrong in that situation? Who is honest and who is dishonest? Who is authentically diminishing faith: the writer of historical movies (who, motivated by sincere loyalty to the church and its missionary effort, orients church members’ faith on an untrue datum that will not hold up) or the historian who carefully reflects a document showing a true fact? Certainly, Joseph Smith seemingly has less stature based on the true facts, but only in reference to the inflated view of his height that was incorrect. The seeming experience of diminishment is the result of an incorrect inflation.
Is dishonesty justified if it serves to increase faith? The quick, obvious answer is no. But policies which support an oversimplified, sentimentalized view of faith — and seek to use methods of official control to minimize true history, including censoring primary historical documents and attacking historians through ad hominem methods — subscribe to this idea. When part of an organization becomes committed to an incorrect perspective, the smallest attempt to defend dishonesty adds layers of dishonesty to the original problem.
The example given above, using Joseph Smith’s height, is expressed in terms of a positive misstatement. But telling untruths through omission is equally as dishonest. If a used car dealer knows his car has a serious, though silent, internal flaw, and sells the car anyway to a kindly old lady, pockets her money, and as a result, the car breaks down in the middle of the Arizona desert, endangering her life, he is as thoroughly dishonest, in an exploitative way, as the person who overtly tells the lady a positive untruth. Concealing a relevant fact that can be perceived as negative is a form of dishonesty.
Juanita Brooks was raised being told that Indians perpetrated the Mountain Meadows Massacre. Indians, in fact, were involved in the massacre. However, leaving out Mormon involvement gave a flagrantly untrue view of the event. Aside from the violence to the ideal of truth found in such a retelling, this crucial omission of a relevant truth made the Native Americans look worse than they were. (In fact, recent evidence indicates that Native Americans played an entirely secondary role in the Massacre.) So an “untruth of omission” can be just as destructive and dishonest as a positive misstatement.
So who was destroying faith: the “loyal” Mormons who told the false story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre leaving Mormons out, or Juanita Brooks, who truthfully told the story of the massacre with the Mormons thoroughly involved?
Some church members might find this argument illogical, or paradoxical. How can learning about the Mountain Meadows Massacre, in which southern Utah church leaders made a decision so disastrously wrong as to cause one of the most horrifying massacres in the history of the West, build faith? How can reading about those excruciating, violent events, which caused such a tragic inheritance of guilt among church members in southern Utah, build faith?
Yet I remember talking about Juanita Brooks’s book, Mountain Meadows Massacre, with a stake president once when I was at BYU. He said early in his marriage he read it, his wife read it, they talked about it. They absorbed the lessons from this tragic episode and made these lessons part of their holistic faith perspective.
Who has more faith: someone whose faith can include uncomfortable, painful truths, or someone whose faith cannot include them, so excludes them from his own faithful ponderings and explorations, and seeks to prevent others from developing holistic faith? Is someone who can go on telling the story of the Mountain Meadows Massacre without Mormons present really a person of faith? Is the person who totally ignores the Mountain Meadows Massacre a person of faith? Or is that person profoundly lacking in authentic faith?
One argument used by some extreme conservatives is that learning “difficult” truths can be valuable for someone who is seasoned in his or her faith, who has had many years of experience in the church. But such truths, they argue, should not be shared with investigators, or new members, or the youth. (Therefore, such truths should not be published, because nonmembers and teenagers have complete access to books on library shelves.) Yet, if leaving out a significant, if difficult, relevant truth is a form of dishonesty, as I have suggested above, this argument suggests that we should give investigators and new members and the youth a dishonest view of our history. Any thoughtful, truthful person should immediately realize that investigators and new members and our youth especially deserve honesty. Therefore, they deserve to hear about the problem issues — told in a non-sensational way, and balanced by the positive in church history — but they deserve to hear them.
So, paradoxically, “sanitized” history — which typically is favored by institutional churches throughout history — is actually destructive of authentic faith, and is put forth by people whose faith cannot include the complexity of real events. History that is commonly referred to as “faith- promoting” (sanitized, in which church members and leaders are idealized and sentimentalized) is in reality the most destructive of authentic faith. (And the kinds of policies that censor authentic history are the kinds that most profoundly undermine authentic faith.)
“Sanitized” history makes even the good, heroic aspects of Mormon history (of which there are many) ring false. Telling the “positive” events in Mormon history while censoring out the bad makes the positive events reek of propaganda (which is consistent with the open dishonesty, stupidity, and attempts to control with force used by totalitarian states). Only when overall balance is found do the “good” events ring true. Intelligent, moral people (and I see the great majority of Mormons as intelligent, moral, honest people) see through propaganda quickly. Aside from the issue of its being offensive because of its dishonesty, it is also aesthetically unconvincing — super-sentimentalized portraits of church leaders without any faults, whom God moves around like puppets as they infallibly make right choice after right choice. The only conflict is between perfect church leaders and perfectly evil Gentile persecutors, or worse, perfectly evil internal traitors who become “apostates.” The idea that a church leader might face a moral dilemma and make a wrong choice; the idea that church leaders can disagree on an important issue; the idea that a Gentile or church member might disagree with church leaders and still be a good person— will not square with this super-sanitized view of Mormon history.
Just a few examples of balanced history. In a fine article by James Kimball, he describes the troubled marriage and family life of J. Golden Kimball. Yet the article allows us to see the folk hero as a real person, facing tragic events just like we do every day, and it also gives us insight into his compassionate nature.
Another example, from a relative of J. Golden, is the 1977 biography of President Spencer W. Kimball by his son and grandson. They wrote that they “tried to be candid, neither omitting weaknesses and problems nor exaggerating strengths.” Yet that biography is all the more moving and convincing because in it we see President Kimball as a real person.
Here is an interesting passage from another wonderful book: “President [Heber J.] Grant was a tenacious businessman. In banking, in insurance, in the sugar company, and in other ways, he showed his ability as a businessman, but much of his success resulted from his tenacity to put over a deal which, in many instances, I think could be rather sharp. That was one of his great weaknesses–one that made it difficult for some people to support him. But I learned, and knew from the time I went to preside over the British Mission, that in addition to his financial ability, he was a prophet of God and lived very close to the Lord.” Notice how sympathetic, yet how balanced this character sketch is. The author asserts that a church president could have “great weaknesses.” Yet he could also have great spiritual power. The author was an apostle and member of the First Presidency for many years–Hugh B. Brown.
One standard “organizational” response to such an event as the Mountain Meadows Massacre would be to ignore it entirely, the stonewalling approach. However, our present Church President, Gordon B. Hinckley, has met with the descendants organization of the Mountain Meadows Massacre and spoke at the dedication of monument at Mountain Meadows on September 15, 1990 and September 11, 1999. He has opened the archives to descendants of the Massacre. President Hinckley’s willingness to acknowledge and discuss this tragic event has done much to bring about healing of the wounds of the massacre in modern times.
I accept many principles of the gospel that conservatives do, but I accept them from my perspective, on my own terms, often accompanied by paradox, tragedy, complexity. Extreme conservatives might look at aspects of the gospel differently than I do; but they should not describe me as an atheist, just as I do not accuse them of atheism. Following are a few of the principles in my faith perspective.
First, I include problematic events in my faith perspective not by viewing church leaders as infallible, but by recognizing that they can make serious mistakes. I accept inspiration of many sorts coming to church leaders on occasion. But an oversimplified view of revelation and inspiration is that they come to mindless, will-less puppets, receiving revelation passively, like blank containers for inspiration to be poured in from on high. Instead, I believe God allows church leaders complete free will, which means they have to work through decisions, using all of their resources of thought, doing their homework or not doing their homework, being tested in their moral insight. And because they have free will, sometimes they make wrong choices. They learn through trial and error. Some fail in the major challenges of their lives. (And often these are behind-the-scene, rather than melodramatically obvious, failures.) This does not deny that church leaders often make right choices and receive inspiration. I believe that the decision to deny blacks the priesthood and temple ordinances was always an incorrect moral choice; the decision to give blacks priesthood was both the result of President Kimball and other general authorities having the moral insight to realize that racial prejudice was wrong, and the result of inspiration confirming his realization. I also agree with Apostle James E. Talmage and Eugene England that polygamy is not a central tenet of Mormonism, that it will not be the heavenly, eternal form of marriage. Obviously, if you see polygamy as the central doctrine of the Restoration, as some nineteenth century Mormons did, this will be seen as a complete heresy. If you see polygamy as not so central, Talmage, Eugene England, and I might be considered within the bounds of the church on this issue.
Conservative Mormons are somewhat contradictory on the issue of infallibility of Church leaders. In theory, they are not bound to the idea of Church leaders as infallible, and there are passages in Mormon scripture and history that reject the infallibility idea (such as Joseph Smith’s “a prophet is not always a prophet,” J. Reuben Clark’s talk, “When Are Church Leaders Inspired,” Hugh B. Brown’s memoirs, and many passages in the scriptures, such as Moses’s flaws that prevented him from arriving in the Promised Land, and what Paul said were Peter’s hypocritical actions at Antioch). In practice, however, I believe Mormons have accepted a very ironclad idea of church leader infallibility, “priesthood” infallibility. Thus Mormons will say, “Of course we don’t believe in infallibility of church president and apostles. That’s a Catholic idea.” But then mildly disagree with an action of a church leader (which must be done at times, if they make serious mistakes, as they will if they are fallible), and the Mormon who has laughingly denied believing in infallibility will bristle angrily. (Both tendencies can be found in Bachman’s response, I believe.)
Yet history is full of mistakes Church leaders have made, along with their wise and far- seeing actions. I believe that accepting that Church leaders can make serious mistakes on occasion is a basic necessity for any serious defense of the church and gospel.
Second, for me, Jesus is the center of my faith, and I believe I stand with normative Latter-Day Saints in saying that. (Some Mormons seem to place Joseph Smith at the center of their faith.) And the teachings of Jesus are the center of my faith — his teachings of compassion for the outcast, the underprivileged, the poor, those seen as lesser beings because of their race or their gender. His atonement is meaningless unless we try to follow his teachings and actions. (And I certainly do not measure up to his example.) His teachings, combined with the modern day teachings of such leaders as Spencer W. Kimball, Howard W. Hunter, Hugh B. Brown, and Lowell Bennion, have caused me to view ethical concerns as the center of the gospel. For me, the ethics of Jesus, and the Old Testament prophets is the lens through which other aspects of the gospel are refracted.
For instance, in viewing authority, instead of a legalistic, hierarchical view of it, I believe we need to see authority primarily from the ethical perspective of Jesus’s teachings. This gives us a startling revision of one commonly accepted Mormon view of priesthood — instead of a legalistic view of priesthood leaders as infallible, I see more authority than Mormons usually do in leaders in other religions, in those who are not allowed priesthood in our church (including women) — and less authority in those few leaders in our church who try to govern by intimidation and compulsion, instead of through love. (This of course receives support from the well-known scripture in the Doctrine and Covenants, 121:37: “When we undertake . . . to exercise control or dominion or compulsion upon the souls of the children of men, in any degree of unrighteousness . . . Amen to the priesthood or the authority of that man.”)
Jesus taught over and over again that no aspect of the religious life, however accepted a part of church practice it might be (praying, tithing, fasting), has validity unless it is motivated by sincere compassion and love. He particularly warned against righteous deeds done for social approbation. In a parable such as the parable of the good Samaritan, he criticized members of the true priesthood who lack true love and compassion, and he praised a racially and religiously impure man who had the spiritual insight to take the time to help a badly beaten traveler.
Third, I see the supernatural occurring in human events on occasion, but I do not see it as occurring in such a neat, pat, predictable fashion as extreme conservatives accept. For instance, I accept miraculous cures as taking place at times (In Sacred Loneliness records one cure in Mormon history remarkably attested by a non-Mormon source, p. 230); on the other hand, sometimes cures do not take place when a neat, pat solution would demand it. I accept the reality of man’s existence before and after death (and again, I could point to examples of spirits returning after death cited in In Sacred Loneliness). Furthermore, I accept that God does intervene mysteriously in the affairs of this world on occasion; but I do not see God as needing to intervene continuously, second by second, in human events, even in Mormon history. He works through laws, though infinitely careful planning; He is bound by law, according to Mormon doctrine.
This is, of course, one of the central arguments extreme conservatives have used to attack the “New Mormon History.” The new, revisionist history has used many models and perspectives (sociological, economic, feminist, psychological) to view events in Mormon history — and extreme conservatives have charged that the such historians are atheists because sociology, economics, psychology leave God out of the equation. Important “New Mormon” historians, such as Leonard Arrington and Thomas G. Alexander, have argued that for them, God is always part of the equation. All natural laws, both of science and of society, work in conjunction with God and his laws. For me, also, God is always part of the equation (and thus I have no naturalistic (i.e., atheistic) views at all, even in the slightest form); but this does not prevent me from accepting the laws and data of science, sociology, ethics, the laws of historical evidence and theory. Sometimes extreme conservatives denigrate “secular” truth as opposed to “spiritual” truth, but this is a false dichotomy. In fact, my belief in God and the gospel includes the totality of truth. There is no conflict between the intellectual quest and the spiritual quest; they always must be intertwined. I see everything in history and science through the lens of the eternal perspective of the gospel, the ethics of the gospel. Studies in science, sociology, psychology, and history only cause me to appreciate how the laws of God work.
Viewing everything in history and science through the lens of the gospel does not prevent me from making the sincere effort to view everything in Mormon history with complete honesty – in fact, my belief in God and God’s requirement for honesty on all levels is one of the factors that motivates me to seek for complete honesty in writing history. As Juanita Brooks said, “Nothing but the truth is good enough for my church.” Belief in God and loyalty to church and gospel should inspire the historian to greater honesty in his quest, rather than less.
The idea that willingness to write dishonest history is a test of your faithfulness, is a profoundly flawed position. (And we should remember that there are all kinds of shades and variations of dishonest history, from factual errors, to quiet behind-the-scenes censorship policies, to the resulting self-censorship, to transparent special pleading in argumentation, to policies of “silent omission”, to subtle spinning of the truth.) Granted, these forms of dishonesty have been accepted and used skillfully in law, in business, and in politics. In the short run they can seem to be effective. But in the short and long run, they run contrary to the most basic principles of the gospel. I believe that dishonest attempts to conceal and censor problematic aspects of Church history hurt the church far more than the problematic aspects do. Obviously, the true gospel, the true church, does not need dishonesty, concealment of relevant historical facts, censorship.
While there are some church members who advocate policies of censorship of the truth, i.e., dishonesty on an organizational level, some prominent Church leaders disagree. When Elders Howard W. Hunter and Harold B. Lee brought the late Leonard J. Arrington into the Historical Department to be Church Historian, Apostle Hunter cautioned him that care and discretion should be used in writing Mormon history because of reverence church members felt for church leaders. But he also told him that “he felt the Church was mature enough that our history should be honest. He did not believe in suppressing information, hiding documents, or concealing or withholding minutes for possible censorial scrutiny. He thought we should publish the documents of our history. Why should we withhold things that are a part of our history? he asked. He thought it in our best interest to encourage scholars–to help them and cooperate with them in doing honest research.” President Harold B. Lee said, “The best defense of the church is the true and impartial account of our history.”
Honesty is a complex subject. It is an ideal; the best of us can only strive for complete honesty. In our jobs and in daily life, we often face complex ethical decisions that are not easy to work through and act upon. Some forms of dishonesty can be justified. There are situations where deception can be used for higher moral purposes (as in the case of a spy who takes on a false name in order to combat terrorists or totalitarian states, and who, if captured, will give false information to confuse and delay the terrorist or totalitarian governments). Misinformation is a standard aspect of military strategy. If the war is just, a defensive rather than aggressive war, this is idealistic, morally justified deception.
In a less charged example, what if a co-worker wears a new shirt or dress that you personally find in bad taste? The completely honest response is to say, “What an ugly shirt.” Is a more diplomatic response dishonest or kind? Or both? There is a fine line between expressing truths bluntly in an insensitive way and expressing truths in such a way as to soften the blow, without telling actual untruths.
In law, in politics, in advertising, in medicine, in all walks of life, there are complex decisions involving ethics. (For instance: I have a doctor friend who has told me that sometimes he does not give patients the complete truth about the seriousness of their condition immediately. This is withholding truth, which can be a form of dishonesty. Yet he does it for practical, compassionate reasons. He does reveal the whole truth gradually.) The same is true of religion. Sometimes the church presents ethical dilemmas whose solutions are not obvious and straightforward at first glance. In this environment, as in others, sometimes policies in which the whole truth is not disclosed can be carried out for idealistic reasons.
One of the most thoughtful discussions of honesty and deception in Mormon religion is the appendix to Carmon Hardy’s remarkable history of post-Manifesto polygamy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage. In this book, he shows how Mormon leaders, including the First Presidency and Quorum of the Twelve, continued to practice and encourage polygamy in secret after the Manifesto, in America, Canada, and Mexico, and how they publicly denied such practice and encouragement. To them, loyalty to what they considered a true principle trumped the principle of full disclosure toward non-Mormons. (Throughout the nineteenth century, a state of extreme polarization between Mormon and non-Mormon existed, and Mormons often felt that anti-Mormons, who admittedly were often extremist, unpleasant figures, did not deserve full ethical considerations.) In Hardy’s appendix, he observes that policies of “double truth” can be maintained for idealistic reasons. For instance, the general authorities who denied their own involvement in polygamy did so motivated by loyalty to (in their view) a higher principle, loyalty to God, revelation, their forefathers, and the church. Nevertheless, Hardy concludes that such a conscious “double truth” policy had a negative impact on the church. When the sub rosa polygamy was discovered by non-Mormons (as was inevitable), the credibility of church leaders suffered. Reed Smoot, the non-polygamous Senator from Utah, was not seated for months as a result. The Smoot hearings publicly exposed the Mormon “double truth” policy on the issue of post-Manifesto polygamy. And this confusing policy encouraged the rise of modern, twentieth-century polygamy. Even though the church opposes modern polygamy, this modern “fundamentalist” movement, with all its problems, is partially a result of that difficult transitional period in which “double truth” sent many Mormons and non-Mormons mixed or contradictory messages.
Modern church educators and members who seek to censor difficult truths in Mormon history may be acting out of loyalty to the church. But such a policy, even if carried out through idealistic motives, will only damage the church, in both the short and long term. If we agree that censorship of difficult truths has an unethical component, the message being propounded is that the church and gospel needs the support of dishonesty to survive. Which I profoundly believe is not the case.
To present an example of a Church educator who has grappled honestly with problems in church history: I understand that Reed Durham, while an institute teacher, taught a class called “Problems in Church History” that introduced college students to a number of paradoxical, disturbing issues, and discussed them from his perspective of faith. As a contrast, we have another kind of Church educator who avoids like the plague even the slightest hint of problems in church history, creating a view of Mormon history that is entirely sweetness and light and that has little or no relation to the complexities of church history and the American west as found in primary documents. This policy leaves church members defenseless when they are introduced to real historical problems by anti-Mormon writers (who do not explain matters from a context of faith). Most seriously, this policy subscribes to the idea that dishonesty is needed to protect the church and gospel.
Nevertheless, I agree that complete honesty is difficult. No one achieves it fully. I dedicated ISL to my parents, who gave me “ideals of faith and honesty.” I personally am far from perfect, and can only strive for those ideals. But ISL was written as an attempt to achieve those ideals – it was not written as an attack on theism and Mormonism. It was written profoundly out of loyalty to Mormonism – accepting the idea that striving for honesty is the best way to prove your loyalty to the church and gospel, and the only policy that authentically pleases God. Finally, I should state that though I have concentrated on LDS extreme conservatives’ rejection of balanced, honest history (because Anderson, Faulring and Bachman have characterized me as atheist, a Brodie-esque psychohistorian, and a John C. Bennett figure), the anti-Mormon version of Mormon history is as dishonest as those who would completely whitewash Mormon history.
First, anti-Mormons almost by definition entirely eschew balance, which is a transparently dishonest position. I remember one day when I was in college going to Special Collections and reading through one well known anti-Mormon book. The sum total impression of the work was that no Mormon leader has ever been a good, decent, person. While some of the factual elements in the book were true, by not even seeking for balance, the author gave an essentially false perspective on Mormonism and the Mormon people.
Second, conservative Protestants have often specialized in anti-Mormon writing. Thus, they apply harsh historical and moral judgments to Mormonism, but then are unwilling to apply the same standards of perfection to the Bible and their own traditions. This is an inconsistent position, showing a lack of principle, fairness and honesty. (In my view, if they mature, they will come to accept human failings and textual inconsistencies and errors in both the Biblical and Mormon traditions, and see both traditions with more sympathy and compassion.)
Given my lack of sympathy for anti-Mormon writing, some have asked me if I regret that I have “given anti-Mormons fuel for their writing,” and if I regret that some anti-Mormons have used my book to try to further their purposes. I have answered that I do not believe historians or church members need to worry about how truth is used; they need to reflect truth as well as they can. Obviously, some people will misuse truth; that is not the truth’s fault. Other people will use truth in a responsible way. I sincerely believe my book will help to fill out a mature believer’s faith, his or her vision of the infinite breadth and beauty of the gospel, taken in conjunction with other books of Mormon history. (I encourage all readers of Mormon history to go to the works of Leonard Arrington, Juanita Brooks, Lowell Bennion, Linda King Newell, Valeen Tippetts Avery, Richard Bushman, RLDS Church Historian Richard Howard, and D. Michael Quinn, and many others, in conjunction with In Sacred Loneliness.)
I believe that presenting a dishonest view of Mormon history, leaving out all problems or conflicts, gives much more fuel to anti-Mormons than does balanced, “honest” history. Non- Mormons will notice a pervasive strain of dishonesty, including policies of censorship and ad hominem attack, if such exists in the church. (And any clumsy attempts to deny or hide such dishonesty will only make the situation worse.)
Some have asked how I would feel if someone read my book and “lost faith” in the church. Again, I believe a significant part of the problem is that such people have often been given an over-idealized, unbalanced view of history throughout their lives, and when they are confronted with primary Mormon documents, or Mormon history that reflects such, there is a feeling of shock, and also a feeling that they have not been treated with honesty. Whereas, if the church had had a policy and curriculum of discussing such problem issues in a faithful context in Sunday School, Seminary and Institute, and pre-baptism teaching and discussions on problem areas for potential converts, the issue would have been defused years before.
Furthermore, I believe that many people in their religious searchings leave the church for a time, but come back after a time. Such searching is an individual matter, and I respect individuals’ free will and their need to work things out for themselves. However, when I run across Mormons in the midst of religious searching, I always encourage them to stay with the church in some fashion, if they can.
Just to reiterate: I believe that all truths, however difficult (whether it is Joseph Smith’s polygamy or the Mountain Meadows massacre), build authentic faith, taken in conjunction with the totality of the gospel. A true church needs fear no truth. It is oversimplified, over-idealized, unbalanced, censored history that undermines authentic faith.
After reading the reviews of Anderson/Faulring and Bachman, I immediately began to ponder what has been called the burden of the moderate in many organizations, including the LDS Church. I’ve been told that Louis Midgely is writing a book about tensions in Mormon History entitled No Middle Ground. In intellectual, political, religious conflicts, there is an understandable tendency for both sides of the spectrum to move toward the end of the spectrum, then regard the moderate as an enemy. If someone is on the far right end of the spectrum, say, anyone to the left of that position looks wrong, for all practical purposes. The end of the spectrum may dislike and distrust the moderate even more than it dislikes the other end of the spectrum. So a very conservative LDS writer may consider persons like Gerald and Sandra Tanner to be “honest anti-Mormons,” while considering the moderate a “dishonest anti-Mormon,” a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” and thus much more sinister and dangerous. A less melodramatic, but also unsympathetic, perspective might view the moderate as a person who lacks the backbone to take a strong moral stand on an issue, who is wishy-washy, a mugwump, who wants to be all things to all men.
In my meditative mode, I wonder: how can we define extremism? Can extremism be admirable? Can extremism be correct? Furthermore, can moderation be morally wrong, even reprehensible? I think that you can apply these categories to many different issues and come up with many different answers.
For instance, on the issue of whether the earth is round or not, on one end of the spectrum we have the flat-earthers, on the other end the round-earthers, and I don’t see much possibility for middle ground there. But take another issue: evolution. On one end of the spectrum are people who reject evolution completely in favor of saying that God created everything without using such methods (and so evidence for evolution, fossils, the scientific method, are viewed as diabolic lies); on the other end are people who say that evolution occurred and occurs and it proves that God did not create anything and there is no God. However, there is also a middle ground holding that evolution, in some form, was part of God’s modus operandi of creation. This evolutionist does not reject fossils, a form of evolution, and the scientific method, but he or she still accepts that God was involved in these processes.
Both ends of the spectrum may consider this middle ground, the theistic evolutionist, to be a betrayal of the correct position. The religious anti-evolutionist will consider the middle position to be starting on the “slippery slope” to atheism, and in fact a form of atheism. The pro-evolution atheist may consider the middle position irrationality at best, even a betrayal of the scientific method. Both ends of the spectrum may see the moderate as secretly siding with the other end. And the moderate is not accepted as “a real member of the club” by either side.
I am realistic about this situation. Though I have a background in the conservative side of Mormonism, and retain many conservative viewpoints, I also have what I would call a liberal faith in many ways. I believe that the Church environment has become increasingly polarized recently, for various reasons. In such polarized situations, enormous pressure can be put on moderates to join the far ends of the spectrum. The enormous pressures put on the “moderate Republicans” in the recent impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives are a good example, and the overwhelmingly party line vote for and against impeachment in the House shows the success the far right wing of the Republican party had in bringing the “moderate Republicans” to accompany them in the vote.
For better or worse, I have watched myself become what I, personally, consider to be a moderate, in LDS intellectual/academic circles. I may be wrong; I may be looking at myself with entirely too much sympathy; but that is how I see myself. I did not become that intentionally — after my many years of experience reading, writing, talking, participating in a wide variety of situations, I woke up a moderate, liberal in some ways, conservative in others. I offered some unsympathetic takes on moderation above. However, at the risk of looking at myself too sympathetically, I would like to offer some possible positive views of moderation, for a historian and church member.
First of all, there is a natural tendency for one end of the spectrum to view the other end in the blackest possible terms. While there are a few cases in which a person can seem like pure evil or pure good (Hitler or Mother Theresa), in actuality, my experience is that “good” people generally have flaws and limitations, and that “bad” people (people whose acts have been largely destructive, in my view) often have “constructive” traits and motivations.
For instance, in the Civil War, I sympathize strongly with the cause of keeping the country together and ending slavery. Yet I understand that good families were torn apart by the conflict, and brothers fought against brothers on opposing sides. Furthermore, I find Robert D. Lee admirable and heroic, even though he made the (wrong, in my view) choice to stand with his native Virginia and fight against the Union. Both sides in the conflict felt they were fighting for freedom.
Moderates, who are not committed to see an opposite end of the spectrum in the blackest possible terms, can see the human side of both sides of an issue. By human, I mean both the sympathetic side and the limited side. Instead of seeing the opposite end of the spectrum as demonic, you see them as sympathetic human beings, possibly with faults. They can be wrong on occasion, make serious mistakes on occasion, be unsympathetic on occasion. I believe this is a very useful trait for a historian to have — you can see historical figures in their complexity. I think this is a much more true view of human character than the view that sees one side as purely white and the other side as deepest black.
In addition, in my view, this is the best position for the honest apologist. I myself try to be a proponent of the truth in all its aspects, as I have stated above, which by extension means I am a defender of the gospel, if I am successful. If you take the position that important characters on your “own” side are purely good, then you paint yourself into the corner of having to defend their human limitations (and all humans have limitations). Or you are forced to intentionally ignore the limitations or censor them out of the picture, which is a form of defending them, but, as I have stated, a form of dishonesty. In addition, if you paint the opposite side as pure evil, when people find out that the opposite spectrum are people who are often intelligent and idealistic, though with different points of view, you have once again undercut yourself.
Second, ideally, a good moderate can have independence of mind. I remember while I was growing up when I asked my parents what party they voted, they said, we’re independents. I know they were conservative, and I respect people who might be part of a political party (I myself am not part of any organized political party — I am a Democrat) but I like the fact that they wanted to preserve their options in voting. I have a friend who says she is a fiscally conservative, socially liberal Republican. I myself come down with Republicans on certain issues. An independent moderate may be thoughtful, not accepting a party position without examining it. However, because of this, in practical politics, the independently-minded moderate can be viewed as “not a team player.”
Third, moderates can save a party from itself. If extremism can be dangerous, as it certainly can be, moderates can keep the party from teetering on the edge. Sometimes extremists can be the party’s own worst enemies; for instance, I believe that extremist feminism can delay the progress of constructive feminism. Extremists in a party can be judgmental, melodramatic, and can appeal to the lowest possible denominator in a constituency. Given how human organizations work, they are often more powerful than moderates. For instance, in the Democratic party, demagogues can undo the sincere idealism of many centrist Democrats. Extremist conservatives, on the other hand, can make the Republican party look harshly uncompassionate, given to personal attack, and on the lunatic fringe.
Finally, I want to emphasize that in none of this do I deny that moderates must always face the moral imperative. They cannot be morally indecisive. You should not become “moderate” for the sake of labeling oneself a “moderate.” By moderate, I do not mean someone who doesn’t make hard moral choices. As Senator Jeffords has recently shown, sometimes the choice to be a moderate is itself a tough choice.
Finally, there is a religious argument for moderation. Jesus encouraged us to “love your enemy.” It is difficult to sincerely love your enemies if you are at one end of a spectrum and see the other side as pure evil. Having understanding for all kinds of people, and compassion for the problems faced by all kinds of people, leans you toward being a moderate, I think.
Having made this attempt at a defense for religious, historical moderation, I will now try to show that, from my own perspective, at least, In Sacred Loneliness is in many ways a moderate, even conservative book.
First of all, Bachman and Anderson/Faulring imply that I had strong negative biases — I suppose they mean naturalistic (atheistic) and anti-polygamy biases — which led me to look for a negative subject and which then warped my research, interpretation and writing of my book from the beginning. (See p. 70 — Anderson/Faulring imply that I wrote In Sacred Loneliness to support a premise concerning the failure of polygamy — also 118, 137.) So I will give a quick review of how In Sacred Loneliness came to be.
My biggest influence at Brigham Young University was Hugh Nibley. Nibley led me to studying classics, comparative myth, and history of religions at UCLA. My focus was antiquity, though I had read Mormon history out of interest throughout my life. I think Nibley has major flaws as a scholar (we all have flaws as scholars), but I still admire his emphasis on reading a text carefully, in the original language, examining the cultural background of a text for clues, and was very much influenced by that. I also admire his political liberalism in a very conservative environment, his environmentalism, his anti-corporate viewpoint.
At UCLA, in addition to studying myth and religion, I majored in basic classics, taking classes in Greco-Roman history occasionally, and I also took New Testament history classes. These were taught by Scott Bartchy, who influenced me a good deal. He taught the sociology of the New Testament, and I came to see how Jesus’s social inclusiveness (including women, the racial “underclass” Samaritans, and Gentiles in his fellowship) was a central part of his mission and a central theme of the New Testament.
During this time, Sunstone editor Elbert Peck always would call me up and ask me to speak at Sunstone, and I was always happy to do so. As Jesus in his time spoke freely to educated and unlearned, sinner and Pharisee, fisherman and tax collector, I felt it was not right to ignore this group. As a result, I came to know and understand somewhat the liberal side of Mormonism. I think Elbert invited me because I was one of the few Nibley-related people who was willing to participate. But I came to thoroughly enjoy Sunstone and look forward to it as a true spiritual experience — people who typecast it as an anti-Mormon rally of some sort know nothing about it.
I continued to enjoy reading Mormon history, from Sam Taylor to Richard Bushman to Leonard Arrington to Mike Quinn. I read the standard books on polygamy — Foster’s excellent Religion and Sexuality, and Danel Bachman’s Purdue thesis, also excellent. I didn’t do any active research on the subject of polygamy, and it was not a significant issue for me.
As I explain in my introduction to In Sacred Loneliness, a friend, Janet Ellingson, who had a fellowship at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, out of the blue suggested that I apply for one. I could work on the trail diaries of Eliza R. Snow, she said. I felt I had no chance of receiving such a fellowship, but almost as a whim, I filled out the application. To my surprise, I got the grant, though I still am not sure why a classicist got a fellowship in Mormon history.
So my research began. As I explained in the introduction, my book received its genesis as I tried to identify the women Eliza Snow mentioned in her diary. I did not turn to Eliza because I had negative feelings about polygamy, or even because I was interested in polygamy. She was simply a prominent Mormon woman whose diaries happened to be at the Huntington. Her diary led me to an interest in her friends and sister-wives.
It soon became obvious that we needed a good list of Joseph Smith’s wives. Fawn Brodie, the only modern, footnoted source, was not completely reliable, I felt. Aside from being out of date and making some factual mistakes, she largely depended on published, anti-Mormon sources while neglecting primary, sympathetic sources such as diaries and autobiographies. (However, since she had limited access to Church Archives, this was not completely her fault.) Furthermore, instead of looking at complex social and religious reasons for Joseph Smith’s polygamy, she came close to ascribing it all only to sexual motivations. (The sexual life of the subject of the biography is a common theme in all of her books.)
So, like Bachman’s Purdue master’s thesis, my book started as a critique of Brodie. One of the early articles I published relating to my Mormon polygamy was a critique of Brodie’s treatment of Joseph Smith’s polygamy in her biography of Smith. Newell Bringhurst enlisted me to write this paper for a seminar on Brodie, and when I gave the paper orally at the University of Utah, I was told that some of Brodie’s descendants were upset by its frank criticisms of Brodie. This somewhat anti-Brodie tendency is an example of a conservative element in my book.
While I was critical of Brodie, I also recognized that she was a pioneer in documenting Joseph Smith’s wives. One has to admit that no conservative author had published a competent, footnoted, annotated list of Joseph Smith’s wives, with small biographies, to replace Brodie. So I think conservatives sometimes are unfair to criticize even an author as flawed as Brodie. Why had not a competent conservative scholar written a footnoted biography of Joseph Smith that did not avoid his polygamy? (After all these years, Richard Bushman may be finally remedying that lack.)
As Richard Lloyd Anderson has written extensively on evaluating sources in early Mormon (New York) history, I should talk briefly about my view of anti-Mormon data. As mentioned above, I think Brodie’s use of anti-Mormon exposés as her main basis was a serious flaw in her methodology. But unsympathetic sources still can be useful, when used with caution. I believe I occupy a middle ground on the issue of source analysis. Extremely negative sources are always suspect, on certain contested issues. Nevertheless, they cannot be simply ignored. If authors are firsthand witness to events, they should still be considered, though allowances should be made for their biases. In exactly the same way, extremely positive sources are suspect, on certain contested issues, and one must allow for biases there also. So in both cases, one should try to balance data from a very biased source with other sources. Heightened rhetoric can be a suspect sign. For instance, while some historians take the Oliver Cowdery reference to the Joseph Smith/Fanny Alger relationship as a “dirty, filthy affair” (see In Sacred Loneliness, 38) as evidence that this was an affair, not a marriage, I think the heightened rhetoric is suspect. So I take it as evidence that Cowdery knew something about the relationship, but not as evidence that the relationship was actually an affair. (I believe the relation with Alger was a marriage.)
In my view, the position that non-Mormon evidence should not be used at all, however, is extreme and non-critical. Non-Mormon evidence can be very valuable as supporting evidence in conjunction with sympathetic evidence. However, if you are going to be balanced and even- handed, sympathetic and unsympathetic evidence should be subjected to exactly the same careful analysis and scepticism. In a contested issue, do we have heightened rhetoric? Are there signs of extremist bias? Is the witness reliable on specifics?
So I came to my research subject as a critic of Brodie. I mentioned this in my book; my article in Bringhurst’s anthology has been available for years. (In fact, I sent Faulring and Anderson a copy when I shared a preliminary reading of In Sacred Loneliness with them a year or so before it was published). So I was very surprised to have them placing me in Brodie’s naturalistic, secular camp.
As I began my core research, rejecting Brodie’s list of wives as often sensational in tone and unreliable in its sources, I began piecing together a list I felt was reliable. To do this I had to put together at least rudimentary biographies of the women, as it is impossible to identify women without birth and death dates and a reliable marriage history. And these small biographies gradually became longer and longer.
After I had amassed a substantial amount of evidence, a number of patterns struck me. But one of the major patterns was the harsh reality of “practical polygamy” for women. This presents a striking contrast to the high religious emphasis placed on polygamy in nineteenth century Mormonism. I believe I can even document when the phrase “sacred loneliness” (which reflects this theme) first struck me — when I gave the paper on Presendia Huntington Smith Kimball at Sunstone Symposium in Summer, 1994. This was long after I began researching and writing the book.
The “sacred loneliness” contrast is definitely there in the life histories and writings of many of the women I wrote about, though the phrase is my own. I did not create the contrast and inject it into their writings. I would agree that thirty-three women is a small control group for the whole of Mormon polygamy. In addition, it would be difficult to “prove” that polygamy was a positive or negative experience for the totality of Mormon women. (And, as I state below, there were some polygamous families that were more harmonious than others.) However, readers and historians may judge whether the same patterns are found in the lives of other polygamous wives.
I should also note that I did not seek out “controversial” documents. My sweep for evidence sometimes included them, but they were not my main interest. Bachman’s rhetoric portraying me as “taking the bait of” or “joining hands with” anti-Mormons like John C. Bennett, Eber D. Howe, William Hall, and Joseph Jackson, as if they were my main sources or inspirations, is completely incorrect. When I had established a fairly stable list of Joseph’s wives, I read everything they had written, everything their families had written about them, everything their close friends had written about them, everything journalists wrote about them. Aside from my main researches at Church Archives, BYU, University of Utah, and the Huntington, I spent hundreds of hours in the Church Genealogical libraries, both in Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. In addition, I read anything I could find written by women in the early eras of Church history. I read many printed primary and secondary sources. I xeroxed and plowed through the many fat volumes of the Wilford Woodruff diaries. When I discovered a primary document reflecting one of the thirty-three women’s children’s birth dates, I felt it was a major accomplishment. I would have liked to read twice as much as I did, but I did the best I could under the circumstances. Writers such as Bennett, Howe, Hall and Jackson were a very small part of my research, and did not influence me at all, to the best of my knowledge. In fact, I have no fondness for them, though felt that I had to read them. The writings of the women I wrote about, however, had a profound influence on me.
Bachman accuses me of wanting to publish with Signature because of the negativistic nature of my book. (p. 106.) Here is the actual story of my book’s publication history. I sent the manuscript of In Sacred Loneliness to a number of leading publishers of Mormon history, of which the following showed most interest: University of Illinois, Signature Books, and University of Utah Press. I also let the BYU Religious Studies Center series have a look at part of it, though predictably, they wanted nothing to do with it. I thought that all these presses had pluses and minuses, but I respected them all as publishers of significant books of Mormon history. Obviously, I did not agree with every book published at each press, but I thought all had a good track record of valuable work. At Signature, the publication of the Wilford Woodruff journals alone would have made it a major press in Mormon history. BYU historian Thomas Alexander’s biography of Wilford Woodruff is another groundbreaking classic in Mormon history published by Signature. Many of the leading “centrist” Mormon historians, such as Arrington, Bitton, Bushman, have published books and articles with Signature.
Illinois sent an early version of my book to an anonymous reader, who recommended against publication. Among other things, he or she disapproved of the book because it was too “apologetic.” This was a first example of my book being criticized as too conservative.
Signature and University of Utah, however, both were interested in my book. I originally leaned toward University of Utah, where Linda Newell was editing a series in Mormon history. I agreed to publish with University of Utah, and Linda began editing a chapter of the book. However, University of Utah Press had a change of leadership and the Mormon history series (with Linda Newell) was dropped. So I turned to Signature. I was happy to publish with Signature, and I’ve been extremely grateful for their support, but it was not as if I sought them out, and them alone, because I had a “naturalistic” bent. I offered my book to leading publishers of Mormon history (among whom was Signature), and due to circumstances, it ended up at Signature.
Following are significant moderate traits in my book. It would have been desirable for Anderson, Faulring and Bachman, and it would have given them credibility, if they had recognized and acknowledged these moderate/conservative aspects of my book in a fair-minded, judicious way, even while disagreeing with my main thesis.
1. Bachman refers to my title as entirely negative. (p. 106.) However, when I was finalizing the book’s title, some of my more “liberal” friends objected to it, and wanted me to explore other possible titles, because they considered the word “sacred” to be too positive. So one side sees only negativity, the other only the positive. Personally, I believe the title reflects ambiguity.
2. Bachman spends most of his review registering strong disagreement with a few pages of my prologue. However, I wrote the prologue after the rest of the book, the biographical chapters, because a friend, Maureen Ursenbach Beecher if I remember correctly, suggested that I should make some explanations for the rationale of polygamy, as many readers would have questions about unfamiliar aspects of it. It is very different from the kind of monogamy we practice today, or even from standard idealized views of polygamy in modern Mormonism today. Furthermore, many of the women I wrote about had polyandrous relationships with Joseph Smith, and these relationships deserved some explanation. In addition, I wanted to distance myself from Brodie. Her view seems to be that Joseph Smith started and continued polygamy merely because he was sexually overactive. There are liberals who still accept Brodie’s point of view, but aside from the yellow journalism slant this has, I felt that it vastly oversimplified a complex subject.
Therefore, I wanted to show that there were religious, doctrinal reasons for the number of wives Joseph took, and for the polyandrous marriages. I do not believe that sexual attraction should be ruled out of Joseph’s marriages completely (it is a standard component of good marriages), but it is overshadowed by more important religious motivations.
Therefore, I was puzzled that Bachman chose my prologue for his frontal assault, and that his assault was so emotional. (He has since given an oral presentation at the May 1999 Mormon History Association meeting in which he made an even more personal ad hominem attack on me.)
Though I wrote the prologue after the biographical chapters, that does not mean that I did not write it carefully. (Bachman has implied that I wrote it hastily and without thoughtful care because I wrote it last.) It certainly was given as much thought and revision as the rest of the book. And in fact, when it was published as an article in Dialogue in Summer 1996 long before In Sacred Loneliness was published, it received awards from the Mormon History Association and from Dialogue. Such awards do not mean that the chapter or book is perfect (as no article or book is); but it shows that Bachman’s characterizations of it as entirely lacking in competence are not shared by experienced, balanced Mormon historians.
3. In my first chapter, on Fanny Alger, one accepted idea, again, which can be traced back to Brodie, was that Fanny Alger was never Joseph Smith’s wife, but was his mistress, and so the relationship was only an affair. By this perspective, there was never an actual polygamous marriage ceremony. This was supported by the earliest contemporary reference to the Joseph Smith-Fanny Alger connection, in which Oliver Cowdery heatedly referred to it as an affair. (See above.) In this scenario, the first plural wife of Joseph Smith was Louisa Beaman in Nauvoo. However, I had always felt that it was likely that there had been an actual polygamous ceremony with Fanny and Joseph. (If I’d been on the extreme radical side, I would have tried to prove that the Alger relationship was only an affair from the beginning.) When I found an account of the marriage ceremony by Fanny’s cousin, Mosiah Hancock, in the Church Archives one day, I was not surprised, though I was pleased to find my view supported. When my Fanny Alger chapter was published in Journal of Mormon History a year or so before my book was published, I got a call from a long time friend in the Mormon history community thanking me profusely, emotionally, for showing that the relationship was really a marriage. She had previously been told by a historian she trusted that the relationship had been only an affair.
So on that issue, I take the conservative position. If I’d been writing a biased attack on Joseph Smith, of course, I could have emphasized evidence such as the Oliver Cowdery quote.
Some historians on the “left” side of the spectrum were not happy with the “conservative” position I took on the Fanny Alger marriage. (Of course, I did not take that position because I wanted to be “conservative” or antagonize the “liberals”: I took it because the best evidence pointed that way, in my opinion.) The first printed response to the Fanny Alger article was by Janet Ellingson, who rejected the Hancock document and my portrayal of the Alger-Smith relationship as a formal marriage. Respected non-Mormon scholar Lawrence Foster has critiqued me for the same reason, referring to my work as “apologetic,” i.e., defending the church.
4. Brodie places an enormous emphasis on children of Joseph Smith by his plural wives, and she has a list of these that I consider severely inflated. I accept only one child as solid, Josephine Lyon Fisher, for whom there is affidavit evidence.
5. One child of Joseph Smith that Brodie regards as proven and that she sensationalizes is Oliver Buell, child of Presendia Huntington Buell (later Smith Kimball) and Norman Buell. As this child was born before the date of Joseph Smith’s marriage to Presendia, if we accept him as Joseph’s, we would have a clear case of adultery, with a child of Joseph Smith as evidence. If I’d wanted to attack Joseph Smith with an extreme negative bias, I could have accepted and supported Brodie. However, I have repeatedly criticized Brodie’s position here — both in oral presentations and twice in print. Hopefully, the idea that Oliver Buell was Joseph Smith’s child will now be laid completely to rest.
6. In the complex story of Zina Huntington’s marriages to Henry Jacobs, Joseph Smith and Brigham Young, it would have been easy for me to portray Jacobs entirely as a victim. Along with many of his descendants, I still believe that he was not treated fairly; but I also included historical evidence that showed he was not a perfect human being. (See, e.g., his sudden proposal to “Sister Elsy”; his tendency to take Oliver Huntington’s speaking time in the mission field; his combativeness on the trip west, which left one leader angry at him; his occasional apparent self- pity after Zina left him; the tendency women had to leave him, even after Zina.) If I’d wanted to portray Henry as a purely innocent victim, I would have edited all that out. Instead, as a moderate historian, I tried to leave in Henry’s limitations along with his strengths. And though the story of Henry, Zina and Brigham Young shows Young as marrying another man’s wife, it also clearly shows sympathetic sides to Brigham’s character: e.g., see the quote beginning “No man could be more careful” on page 95 of In Sacred Loneliness.
7. Brodie quoted Hall’s statement that Joseph Smith married Zina Huntington while Henry was on a mission to England. She made no evaluation or check of this data — she merely quoted the damaging statement. In my Brodie article and in In Sacred Loneliness I show that Hall’s statement is false — Henry Jacobs did not go on a mission to England until after Joseph Smith’s death. The Oliver Huntington journal, which Brodie had access to and quotes from, shows this clearly. Why did Brodie even cite Hall? I ignore the quote in my book and took Brodie to task for using it.
8. Brodie, working from one late, not even secondhand, anti-Mormon source, suggested that the reason for Joseph’s tar and feathering was that he had taken sexual liberties with Marinda Johnson. This one flimsy piece of evidence fit perfectly into her pan-sexual theory. I showed the weakness of her case here.
9. Sidney Rigdon and Ebenezer Robinson and an anonymous source assert that Marinda Johnson Hyde married Willard Richards polyandrously (while her husband was on his mission to Palestine) before marrying Joseph Smith. This is actually a possible position — Rigdon and Robinson were first-hand Nauvoo witnesses. They were not questionable figures such as John C. Bennett. However, I argue that they may have misunderstood the evidence here, and were not in the inner polygamy circle of Nauvoo, therefore I do not find the idea that Marinda married Willard Richards convincing (In Sacred Loneliness, 238.)
Why, if I was so intensely biased against Joseph Smith and Mormonism, as Mr. Bachman emphatically accuses, did I take these “conservative” positions? But, the conservative reviewer asks, if I’m so conservative, why didn’t I portray polygamy as entirely rosy? My answer is that I am moderate, that I try to be balanced. I admit, I am not an extreme conservative. But the positions outlined in this section shows clearly that I was not on the anti-Mormon extreme.
How did I arrive at my main thesis, which certainly included problematic aspects of polygamy? As was mentioned above, I did not have the title until some two years after I began research, when I needed a title for a talk on Presendia Huntington Kimball. Though Presendia is not the most pronounced example of “sacred loneliness” in my book, the title seemed fitting to me, and I eventually felt that the phenomenon was shared by other wives and that the title was appropriate for the whole book.
In fact, far from having pronounced anti-polygamy biases when I began the book, as Bachman implies, polygamy was not an issue for me. But researching and writing the book was obviously an education. It developed my views on polygamy, especially reading the writings of certain key women such as Emily Partridge Young and Patty Sessions.
I did wonder if I had by chance stumbled on the writings of women who had extraordinarily bad experiences with polygamy. However, I began to discover many of the same patterns in other polygamous relationships. See, for example, Tanner’s A Mormon Mother. (And I do not see the problems in that relationship as resulting primarily from post-Manifesto status, as Anderson and Faulring suggest. The problems started much earlier.) Also, see the thesis cited above, Suzanne Adel Katz, “Sisters in Salvation: Patterns of Emotional Loneliness Among Nineteenth-Century Non-Elite Mormon Polygamous Women.” I read Katz in the later stages of writing my book, I believe in 1996 or early 1997. While I came to have great admiration for many polygamists, female and male, I came to believe that the problem was in the polygamous system. Obviously, if a man has five wives, he has to fragment limited time and resources. The contrast with monogamous marriage, difficult enough by itself, was remarkable.
I think perhaps one of the reasons I especially saw the difficult side of polygamy is because I looked at it from the woman’s point of view, and because in the group of wives I studied there were some private records of their inner turmoil. The polygamy experience, from the male point of view, was very different from the female point of view. For a man with five wives, he was with a woman every day; for the woman, she had male companionship and household help once every five days (if the husband was strictly equitable, which he often wasn’t).
One of the most powerful documents reflected in my book is the diary of Emily Partridge Young. Obviously the marriage of Emily and Brigham was dysfunctional. You might argue that the relationship would have been the same in a monogamous relationship, but I find that hard to imagine. Anderson and Faulring refer to my “negative interpretation” of Emily Partridge, but it is difficult for me to imagine anyone reading her diary and painting a flowery picture of her life with Brigham. Anderson and Faulring suggest that the problem in the relationship was really Emily’s: “Yet mood is one of her problems. . .” (p. 97). However, Brigham simply refused to pay her small water and school bills, and she agonized about how she could work to make enough money to pay them. This financial struggle for Emily, especially since she had poor health, cannot be blamed on her “problems” with “mood.”
I agree that there were complexities in Emily’s relationship with Brigham, and in my book I included positive things she said about him, and positive things he did for her. Yet an overwhelming emotional impression of the journal is agonized disbelief at how Brigham treated her. The diary expresses her ambivalence and inner conflicts, which were fascinating.
If I were reproducing a flatly “negative interpretation,” I would not have included the positive things she said about Brigham. Anderson and Faulring seem to suggest that I should have merely cited the positive passages. After describing positive things Brigham did for Emily (all taken from my book), Anderson and Faulring write, disapprovingly, “In Sacred Loneliness prefers to keep Emily’s complaints on the record.” (p. 98) But citing only the positive would have given a dishonest account of Emily’s diary and experiences. The only responsible route for a historian is to reflect the positive and negative and the relative weight they have in her diary. Emily created her record; I didn’t. Emily kept her complaints on the record.
Did I overemphasize those negative passages? I doubt that anyone who has read the whole diary would say so. In fact, let me cite a summary of the diary written long before In Sacred Loneliness appeared, that found in Davis Bitton’s Mormon Diaries and Autobiographies: “Begins: ‘Today I am fifty years old.’ Many gaps. Entries sometimes long. Much introspection and philosophizing; indeed some pages seem close to sermons or essays and may have been published in church periodicals.” When the summary describes the central content of the diary, it begins: “A major theme: author’s financial hardships due to refusal of Brigham Young to provide support. Yet she still shows admiration for him. Mixed emotions.”
I believe, instead of “negative interpretation,” I supplied a balanced interpretation, reflecting the negative, but also the positive. Certainly, this creates a dissonance, but it was a dissonance that Emily experienced, as Bitton or a Bitton-sponsored historian reflects: “Mixed emotions.” To have suppressed the “difficult” passages would have been ethically dishonest — and in addition, might have turned Emily and Brigham into sentimentalized puppets, instead of real people.
Anderson and Faulring write, “We have learned from Todd Compton’s work but are disturbed by its dissonances.” (103) The Emily Partridge journal shows that I did not arrange inoffensive documents to create dissonance — the dissonances are there in the original documents, in the life experiences of these women. I formulated the central thesis of my book, I believe, only after it surfaced repeatedly in many different documents. I believe anyone who studies nineteenth century Mormon polygamy seriously and honestly will be disturbed by the dissonances it caused in many families. (On the other hand, as I have mentioned, there were other polygamous families in which problems were worked out more successfully.)
As can be seen from the list of significant “conservative” aspects of my book, above, I did not go out of my way to document as much sex as possible in Joseph Smith’s marriages, as Brodie seemingly did. In fact, I disallowed much of Brodie’s argumentation and evidence on this subject, including her “certain” son of Joseph Smith, Oliver Buell (and if I had accepted this son as Joseph’s, it would have proven an adulterous relationship).
Nevertheless, there was clear evidence for sexual relations in some of the relationships, and when this was found, I accepted it. I did not highlight it for sensational effect like Brodie; to me, it is merely part of the picture that should not be overemphasized or underemphasized, and not an especially controversial part. Marriages usually include sexual relations, and if we accept that Joseph Smith had marriage ceremonies for his marriages, the sexual relations should be normal and expected unless there is some other factor involved. Polygamy in the Old Testament usually included children, and in fact, having children was often one of the motivations for polygamy.
As Bachman notes (p. 107), an anti-Mormon writer has critiqued me for not making sexuality the only motivation for Joseph Smith’s marriages. Instead, I focus on theological and dynastic reasons for the marriages, though I do not rule out spiritual and physical attraction as another motivation for specific marriages (which again, is entirely appropriate for normal marriages).
Despite my taking a very balanced position here, I think, it is still a difficult, charged topic, and so I am not completely surprised that Anderson and Faulring register objections to my treatment of some aspects of it. I’ll look at two issues here: Helen Mar Whitney’s marriage to Joseph Smith, and polyandry.
Were there sexual relations in the marriage of Joseph Smith and his youngest wife, Helen Mar Whitney, fourteen at the time of her marriage to Smith? First of all, some preliminary points. Anderson and Faulring hint that I should have referred to her as “nearly fifteen.” (p. 79.) This kind of terminology might be understandable if she had been a week or so away from fifteen, but she was three months away. But even if she had been a week away, she would have still been fourteen till the date of her birthday. Anderson and Faulring are not facing up to the truth here.
Then Anderson and Faulring suggest that Helen was “approaching eligibility.” Here, they should have included documentation to support the idea that marriage at fourteen was “approaching eligibility.” Actually, marriages even two years later, at the age of sixteen, occurred occasionally but infrequently in Helen Mar’s culture. If we take a random sample of the marriage ages of the women in my book who married before they were sealed to Joseph Smith, we have the following: Lucinda Pendleton, 18. Zina Huntington, 20. Presendia Huntington, 16. Agnes Coolbrith, 27. Patty Bartlett, 17. Sylvia Sessions, 19. Mary Rollins, 17. Marinda Johnson, 18, Elizabeth Davis, 20, Sarah Kingsley, 19, Delcena Johnson, 22, Martha McBride, 21, Ruth Vose, 33, Elvira Cowles, 29, Fanny Young, 18.
Thus, girls marrying at fourteen, even fifteen, was very much out of the ordinary. Sixteen was comparatively rare, but not unheard of. So Helen was quite far from usual ages of eligibility, seventeen or eighteen.
Now we approach the question of sexuality in the marriage of Helen Mar and Joseph Smith. Anderson and Faulring represent that I take the position that there were sexual relations between Helen Mar and Smith. Compton “writes as though it is likely that Helen’s sealing to Joseph Smith included marital relations.” (p. 80). Compton “leaves it open to assume this was a sexual adjustment.” (p. 80) Having typecast me into the Brodie sexualist camp, Anderson and Faulring then strongly take the position that it is a virtual certainty that there was no sexuality in this marriage [“there is every reason not to assume a sexual dimension”, 80] and lambast my purported “sexual” position for the rest of that section.
Anderson and Faulring’s treatment leaves me taken aback, for I nowhere say that Helen Mar and Joseph had sexual relations. The most important passages from my book in this respect are as follows:
Interestingly, Joseph’s youngest wife, Helen Mar Kimball, was the daughter of another loyal apostle, Heber C. Kimball, so that marriage may also be considered dynastic, not motivated solely by sexual interest. (In Sacred Loneliness, 12) Some conclude that Helen Mar Kimball, who married Smith when she was fourteen, did not have marital relations with him. This is possible, as there are cases of Mormons in Utah marrying young girls and refraining from sexuality until they were older. But the evidence for Helen Mar is entirely ambiguous, in my view. (In Sacred Loneliness, 14) Orson Whitney wrote, “Soon after the revelation [to Vilate] was given, a golden link was forged whereby the house of Heber and Joseph were indissolubly and forever joined. Helen Mar. . . was given to the Prophet in the holy bonds of celestial marriage.” This marriage, like that of Smith to Sarah Whitney, looks to be almost purely dynastic, as Whitney’s language (“golden link” “the houses of Heber and Joseph”) shows. (In Sacred Loneliness, 497)
My position, actually, is that there is no evidence, pro or con, for sexual relations. You cannot prove that there were sexual relations; you cannot prove that there were no sexual relations. Notice that I do not simply say “ambiguous”; I say “entirely ambiguous.”
But, the reader may ask, what is my best guess? I remember talking with my publisher Gary Bergera on the phone once during the editorial process and I restated the cautious “no evidence either way” position. But Gary pressed: “But what do you think? What is your best guess?” And I answered that my best guess was that there were no sexual relations, based on parallels from some marriages to underage women in Utah polygamy.
A careful reader, I believe, would have understood that this was the way I was leaning from the quotes above. First of all, while not removing the idea of sexual/spiritual attraction altogether, I assert that the Helen Mar marriage was primarily (“almost purely”) dynastic, mostly motivated by the desire of Heber Kimball and Joseph Smith to link their families. This removes me from the Brodie sexualist camp.
Second, I provide evidence for the possibility that there were no sexual relations by drawing the parallels from Utah polygamy. See In Sacred Loneliness, p. 638, section “marrying underage women,” which gathers three sources showing deferred sexual relations in the cases of underage women marrying older men.
So, if I was not hinting that there was a “sexual adjustment” after the Helen Mar / Joseph Smith marriage, what was I suggesting? My view, based on Helen’s short 1881 reminiscence, is that she married Joseph thinking the marriage would be “for eternity alone,” linking the houses of Heber and Joseph. In my reconstruction, she may have understood that she would be free to date in her peer group and marry someone else for time.
I think Helen Mar had already become interested in Horace Whitney, the brother of her best friend, Sarah Ann Whitney. So when she came to understand that the marriage included time (therefore she would be allowed no dating, no marriage to Horace), she was understandably devastated, as she was not in love with Joseph Smith. If I were to isolate one event that may have triggered this realization, it is when Joseph and Heber Kimball would not let her attend a dance at the Mansion House. (In Sacred Loneliness, 502.) I emphasize how this event might have triggered Helen’s realization that the marriage to Joseph included time.
Anderson and Faulring, I believe, misinterpret Helen’s statement that “The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone.” (p. 80, In Sacred Loneliness, 499). The poem clearly shows that this was her original understanding, but she later had to abandon it. (See the section of the poem at In Sacred Loneliness, 500.)
This is a painful story. I tend to think that dynastic marriages, arranged by male parents (Helen’s mother clearly opposed the marriage), without authentic courtship, are always a mistake, and adversely affect the young woman involved; and I also think that plural marriages to young teens are unwise, and have set an example that has had unfortunate consequences even in contemporary Utah, as recent events in fundamentalist polygamist groups in Utah show. Nevertheless, in the issue under discussion, sexuality in the Helen Mar marriage, though I do not see proof on either side, I lean toward the non-sexuality interpretation, as Anderson and Faulring do. (Though they seem to regard it completely certain.)
As I was writing this response, I talked about my book with a conservative friend of mine, the wife of a bishop, and more conservative than her husband I think, and the subject of the Helen Mar chapter came up. Did that chapter bother you, I asked? No, she said, because there was no sexuality involved.
So once again, in this case, I took a moderate, even conservative position. We are left to wonder why Anderson and Faulring portrayed me as pushing the most extreme sexual interpretation possible in this volatile topic of Joseph Smith’s youngest wife. It is almost as if they wished I had written an anti-Mormon, a neo-Brodie book, so they attacked the book they wished I had written. I believe that here again, Anderson and Faulring misread the point of view of a moderate, who tries to look at both valid “positive” and valid “problematic” evidence and make a synthesis. So they leapt to the judgment that portrayed me as a Brodie disciple or an anti-Mormon and attacked my supposed thesis on that basis.
On p. 84, Anderson and Faulring quote my statement reflecting the union of Zina Huntington Jacobs and Joseph Smith, “Nothing specific is known about sexuality in their marriage, though judging from Smith’s other marriages, sexuality was probably included.” They respond, “This is an example of many questionable conclusions in this book that are overly broad, nonspecific, or undocumented.” My statement is actually very undogmatic and cautious. I straightforwardly state that there is no specific evidence on sexuality in the Zina marriage that I know of. Then I state, judging from other Smith marriages that included sexuality, it was “probably” included, not certainly. I allow the reader to assess the evidence and make his or her own conclusion. However, Anderson and Faulring’s sentence, which is quite sweeping and general in its own right, gives the impression that my book largely consists of sexual innuendo based on no evidence. (“questionable conclusions . . . undocumented.”)
I’m not sure exactly where Anderson and Faulring are going with their argument here, but it seems to be an attempt to make a case for as little sexuality in Joseph Smith’s marriages as possible. As I have mentioned above, sexuality is an accepted aspect of marriages, polygamous or monogamous. I do not find it especially controversial in a polygamous marriage. And while an overemphasis on sex creates a tone of yellow journalism (a failing I have criticized Brodie for), attempts to ignore it completely or underemphasize it are also unhealthy.
In the case of the polyandrous marriages, Anderson and Faulring apparently are going in the direction of proposing that there was no sexuality involved in any of them. Thus, they would have to regard Sylvia Sessions as a conspicuous exception, if they accept the Fisher affidavit, which they apparently do (p. 83). Theoretically, they could argue, out of eleven cases (I strongly doubt that their rejection of Jensen’s reliability will hold up, see below), in ten cases there is no evidence for sexuality. In only one case do we have evidence, they might argue, so we can view it as an exception.
There is some ambiguity in the evidence here, so I can understand such an argument. However, in my view, it is unconvincing. A survey of the evidence for the eleven women in question (looking at whether there is an autobiography recording the marriage, a record of the sealing with valid information, and whether the marriage was for time / eternity or for eternity only), will be helpful. I asterisk the wives for whom we have some significant evidence.
Lucinda Harris — never came west, no autobiographical writings, not part of affidavit drive.
*Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs — autobiographical writings, but no certain evidence, pro or con, on sexuality. On the issue of time/eternity, the evidence is entirely ambiguous. However, Zina’s biographers, Bradley and Woodward, note that while Zina did not explicitly say her marriage with Joseph Smith was consummated, she signed an affidavit saying she was Joseph Smith’s wife “in very deed,” which they take as evidence that the marriage was consummated. BYU historian Kathyrn Daynes also seems to interpret “in very deed” this way.
Presendia Huntington Buell — no real autobiographical writings on the subject.
*Sylvia Sessions Lyon – her daughter, Josephine Lyon Fisher, left an important affidavit affirming that she (Josephine) was Smith’s child. So this is the most explicit evidence for sexuality and offspring in all of Smith’s plural marriages, polyandrous or polygynist.
*Mary Rollins Lightner — autobiographical writings. No evidence pro or con on sexuality. However, there is evidence that the marriage was for time as well as eternity. Mary said she knew of some of Joseph Smith’s children by plural wives.
*Patty Sessions — no autobiographical writings, but a record of the marriage ceremony in her diary shows that it was for time as well as eternity.
Marinda Johnson Hyde — no autobiographical writings or other significant evidence.
Elizabeth Davis Durfee — no autobiographical writings or other significant evidence. Not part of affidavit-seeking drive, as she ended up RLDS.
Sarah Kingsley Cleveland — did not come west, not part of affidavit drive. No autobiographical writings or other significant evidence on this issue.
Ruth Vose Sayers — no autobiographical writings or other significant evidence on this issue.
Elvira Cowles Holmes — no autobiographical writings or other significant evidence on this issue.
Thus, there are only four polyandrous wives who left us significant evidence about the marriage to Smith. Of these cases, one explicitly said she had a child by Smith, and two others affirmed that the marriages were for time as well as eternity. Another strongly hinted in a formal affidavit that the marriage had been consummated.
For Anderson and Faulring to make a convincing case for Sylvia certainly being a complete exception, I would think they would need a woman to say that the general rule was for no sexual relations, and then explain how and why the Sylvia Sessions Lyon exception occurred. Furthermore, it would help their case if they found polyandrous wives who explicitly, unambiguously stated that their marriages were for eternity only, not for time. They may eventually find such documents, but I know of none at this time. Therefore, with four cases providing significant data, two providing evidence of time marriages, and one providing strong evidence of a child, I think the most probable scenario includes sexual relations in the polyandrous marriages, except in the cases of older women.
This is not a “final word” on the topic; “final words” do not exist in history. I hope and expect that further documents relating to these polyandrous marriages will surface in the future, and my views may change accordingly. But as things stand now, the weight of the evidence suggests that the polyandrous marriages were generally for time, as well as for eternity, and probably included sexuality.
Anderson and Faulring take my list of 33 wives of Joseph Smith and assert that I was incorrect in allowing four of them, Lucinda Morgan Harris, Elizabeth Durfee, Sarah Kingsley Cleveland, and Nancy Maria Winchester. (pp. 73-78.) This discussion shades into the discussion of polyandry and youth of the wives, as three of these women were polyandrous, and one, Winchester, was very young — she must have been about fourteen years old when she married Smith. (One well documented wife, Helen Mar Kimball, was certainly married to Joseph Smith when she was fourteen so this is completely within the realm of possibility.)
Anderson and Faulring state their case for disallowing these wives very strongly. It is not a situation in which they allow me a reasonable case — they simply reject these women: “Wives Included on Inadequate Evidence.” (p. 75) “This reasoning [my saying that certain lists are reliable] is the Achilles heel of [Compton’s] attempts at objectivity in enumerating the Prophet’s wives.” (p. 73) “We rejected four wives for lack of documentation.” (p. 81).
In rejecting these four wives, Anderson and Faulring plunge us into the question of interpretation of historical evidence. I am obviously fully in favor of applying the highest possible standards for interpreting historical evidence, and I am on record in my Brodie article and elsewhere that Brodie made serious mistakes because she used late and second-hand antagonistic, biased evidence as her primary basis for discussion in many cases. In many cases, I have tried to put a number of mistaken conclusions based on Brodie’s flawed methodology to rest. So I am concerned that historical methodology for accepting and evaluating evidence be careful, reasonable and fair.
So, some general principles:
(1) No piece of evidence is perfect. As I wrote in In Sacred Loneliness (p. 29), contemporary evidence is very desirable, but is not perfect. Even if someone writes something in a diary (contemporary evidence), it is still biased and limited to his or her viewpoint. That person’s enemy, or even a friend, may write on the same day about the same events and look at them very differently.
Therefore, since no piece of evidence is perfect, if you do not like any piece of evidence, you can always object in some way and throw it out. As a result, it is important that one does not hold a double standard for crucial evidence, that one is consistent. For instance, if one rejects a piece of evidence whose content one does not like on the argument that it is second-hand, one should not accept another piece of evidence (whose content one likes) that is equally second- hand.
Evidence can be used, and should be used, even if it is not perfect. (Otherwise, no evidence could be used at all.) One can use evidence skillfully, but still allow for its limitations. For instance, if one has two pieces of evidence, one can balance them against each other. One limited truism of historical research is that late evidence is inferior to contemporary evidence. In many respects this is true, but not necessarily. I cited Eliza R. Snow’s contemporary diary entry for the day she married Joseph Smith, In Sacred Loneliness, 313. Nowhere is there explicit mention of the marriage in that entry. A researcher with that diary alone would never affirm or try to prove that Eliza married Joseph on that day, or at all. However, in a late piece of evidence, her autobiography, she explicitly affirms the marriage to Joseph (cited at In Sacred Loneliness, 312), and in other late evidence she gave the date. No one piece of evidence was perfect, but all were valuable. Combined, they presented a reliable, full view of the event.
(2) Thus, evidence supports other evidence, and the totality is more than any single piece of evidence. Every added bit of evidence makes the case stronger. One can see if different pieces of evidence agree or disagree on something. If they agree, one piece of evidence can be corroborated by other pieces of evidence. If six people affirm something, the validity of the event is heightened or demonstrated beyond reasonable doubt. This is why it is important for a scholar to read and judge all the possible evidence on a subject. Sometimes a piece of evidence that is valuable, but cannot entirely support a complex event, can combine with another piece of evidence to present more of the totality. This is not a question of two bad pieces of evidence making a good case for something. It is a question of a good piece of evidence standing alone lacking complete certainty, but if combined with another good piece of evidence, being made reasonably certain. Anderson and Faulring are repeatedly quite scathing about this principle: “two tanks of ordinary gas do not produce a high-octane mix”, 77; “assembling several flawed diamonds does not produce a perfect stone,” 75. Anderson and Faulring’s statement here assumes that there is such a thing as perfect evidence, which, as I have remarked above, is not the case. It also overstates its case. I am not searching for a “perfect stone,” which does not exist in the real world or in history; I am searching for a convincing, reliable case. Anderson and Faulring’s sarcastic statements here also imply that all my evidence is bad (a collection of “flawed” stones); actually, I would not introduce any evidence at all if it were not worthwhile in some way.
Corroboration is a basic principle of legal proof, and is obviously also valid in scholarship. Certainly two completely wrong sources can be wrong together; but the more sources that support each other, the higher the likelihood that they are reliable. In Mormon history, a combination of sympathetic and unsympathetic sources agreeing on something can be very valuable, because then you do not suspect either side of distorting the truth from bias. This leads to my next point:
(3) In religious history, biases for and against an organization or religious leader are often intense; often intelligent, trustworthy people can be limited by their biases. (For instance, any autobiographer will tend to look at himself very sympathetically.) Dealing with these biases in historical evidence is thus a challenge. In Mormonism you have more or less strongly pro-Mormon evidence and more or less strongly anti-Mormon evidence. How do you evaluate the different kinds of evidence, and write history that both Mormons and non-Mormons can trust? First of all, even if evidence is biased, that does not mean it cannot be used at all. No evidence is perfect, but we can sometimes make allowance for extreme bias, positive or negative, and still find usefulness in the evidence, especially if it is solid in other aspects. In highly charged evidence, a danger sign is heightened rhetoric. So one can make allowance for the rhetoric, and judge what else the evidence tells us.
One very simple methodology is for the anti-Mormon to accept only evidence on Mormonism that has a strongly negative bias, or to highlight that evidence, then ignore or downplay contrary, sympathetic evidence. The very simple equivalent of this methodology on the other side is to accept only pro-Mormon evidence, and highlight that, then ignore or downplay contrary, non-Mormon evidence.
Naturally, I believe both these strategies are fatally flawed. My personal methodology, when I deal with a sensitive, problematic issue in Mormon history, is usually to start with sympathetic sources. Then I bring in corroborative evidence from other sources, including the more valid, first-hand “unsympathetic” sources, in which allowance is made for distortion, but in which there is often something useful. (This inverts Brodie’s methodology; she often used anti- Mormon sources as the foundation. If I were merely out to attack Mormonism, Brodie’s methodology would be more logical, obviously.)
If I have my two or three sympathetic sources, why even look at the “negative” sources? Because, as I said, no evidence is perfect, but, for a responsible historian, all relevant evidence should be looked at and evaluated. Mormons would be enormously narrow and parochial (and solipsistic and even unchristian) if they only accepted evidence and writing that had been written by other Mormons.
In addition, anti-Mormon writing is not all of the same quality. On the one hand you have yellow-journalistic writers producing exposés with little primary research or little or no first hand knowledge of Mormon history. This can be close to fiction, or the worst kind of muck-raking. On the other hand, you may have a good Mormon who was involved in many of the incidents of Mormon history first hand, who becomes disillusioned, leaves the church, and writes his memoirs. These first hand memoirs can still have great value, despite the author’s bias, and no responsible Mormon historian would simply ignore this kind of evidence. (And, as I have mentioned, the Mormon who stays within the church will write memoirs that have a positive bias.)
Respected non-Mormon scholar, Lawrence Foster, also makes the distinction between valid, useful, and totally worthless evidence from antagonistic Mormons: see his Religion and Sexuality, in which he asserts that there are two kinds of anti-Mormon evidence: first hand (which must be considered and used) vs. semi-fictional exposes, which are close to useless, except as compendiums of wild gossip.
If one disallowed all authors who had bias, there would be no evidence for Mormon history, or any history. Even statistical evidence can be the result of bias.
Anderson, Faulring and Bachman all excoriate me for being influenced by John C. Bennett. (pp. 74; 131.) Bachman affirms, in relation to Bennett, that I have “taken” his “bait,” as if my whole philosophy were based on Bennett. (In fact, I use him in an entirely secondary way. Nowhere do I make a case based entirely on Bennett. I actually feel a certain antipathy to Bennett, which is understandable, as he was not an honest, sympathetic character.) Nevertheless, I occasionally use statements by Bennett in a limited way, when they look like they are based on personal experience and have substantiation from other sources.
Bachman himself has used anti-Mormon evidence. See his reprinting of “Buckeye’s Lament,” an anti-Mormon poem, in his thesis. He was entirely justified in reprinting and using this poem. Even if it was anti-Mormon, it was very early, and apparently written by an insider. Bachman, as a historian, would have been derelict in his duty if he had not considered it and quoted it.
An example of the necessity for using antagonistic evidence on occasion is Oliver Cowdery’s statement: “A dirty, nasty, filthy affair of his and Fanny Alger’s was talked over in which I strictly declared that I never deviated from the truth.” As we have seen, this, the first contemporary reference to Fanny Alger’s relationship with Joseph Smith, is taken from a letter written on January 21, 1838 (see In Sacred Loneliness, 38). Here we find heightened rhetoric, so Oliver’s labeling as the Smith-Alger relationship as an “affair” is suspect. But it nevertheless shows irrefutably that Cowdery knew there had been a relationship between Smith and Alger by early 1838, and that it was a emotional point of contention between the two men. Thus, while one need not accept the interpretations of antagonistic sources, a responsible historian must consider them, and perhaps filter them. Anderson and Faulring refer to me as sanitizing a “smear” (p. 75) — in my view, I extracted what was worthwhile in a source (Sarah Pratt) and discarded the suspect rhetoric. Their desired alternative — completely ignore Sarah Pratt, a Nauvoo veteran and wife of an apostle — is a simplistic solution that will not work in the long run.
Now, we return to the lists of wives.
First of all, I regard Danel Bachman’s thesis on Joseph Smith’s polygamy as a milestone in the historiography of Mormon polygamy and an effective response to Brodie’s inflated list of wives because he emphasized the affidavits collected by Joseph F. Smith and others. However, we cannot make affidavit evidence an absolute principle. If we have a good autobiography by a woman, or evidence in someone else’s diary or autobiography for a plural marriage, then that is good evidence. The affidavit principle should be used as a tool rather than as a straitjacket. For instance, what of the wives of Joseph Smith who died before 1869 (when the affidavits began to be gathered)? We cannot simply disallow these wives, if there is reliable evidence for their marriage to Joseph Smith, even if they did not leave an affidavit. In the same way, we cannot disallow Joseph’s wives who did not end up in Utah. (This is exactly the case with three of the women Anderson and Faulring want to disallow.)
The main piece of evidence that Anderson and Faulring dispute in disallowing the four wives in question is Andrew Jenson’s list of twenty-seven wives published in 1887. So to assess Anderson’s and Faulring’s proposed shortened list, we must first evaluate Jenson and his list.
I was very surprised to find Anderson and Faulring portraying Jenson’s list as unreliable — I was, you might even say, staggered. Knowing Anderson’s background objecting to evidence antagonistic to Joseph Smith in his early folk-magic era, one might expect him to object to use of any kind of antagonistic evidence. (And in fact, Anderson and Faulring often do object categorically to any use of antagonistic evidence, see above.) However, to portray the completely orthodox Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson as unreliable strikes me as unaccountable, even approaching the bizarre.
To support this position, Anderson and Faulring stage a concerted attack on Jenson’s list. It is “secondary, without information on why he included a given person.” (p. 74) They seem to allow the women included in his list with a date of sealing, including who performed it, but not those included without a date. In addition, they criticize Jenson’s research as “imperfect” because he missed listing a few women who were sealed to Joseph.
So let’s examine these charges. First, Anderson and Faulring assert that this list is “secondary,” i.e., second-hand. It is true that Jenson was not present at any of the sealings he lists. But, as we have seen, no evidence is perfect. In fact, some second-hand evidence is reliable, and other second-hand evidence is suspect. Some “second-hand” evidence is very impressive. In second-hand evidence one must ask, is the original source reliable? And is the person reporting the original source reliable? If they both are reliable, one can accept the source as very valuable. (Not perfect; but no evidence is perfect.)
For instance, I don’t think any reasonable person would deny that Sarah and Maria Lawrence married Joseph Smith. The evidence for that is overwhelming. But it is not evidence from Sarah or Maria themselves. Maria died in 1847, leaving not a single document written by herself. Sarah died in 1872, again leaving not a single document written by herself that I know of, and in her later life she reportedly denied that she married Joseph Smith. On the other hand, Emily Partridge Smith Young, Helen Mar Kimball Smith Whitney, and Lucy and Lovina Walker provided convincing evidence that Sarah and Maria married Joseph, though none of them were present at the sealings, to the best of our knowledge. (Jenson also lists the Lawrence sisters.) So secondary evidence can be reliable.
Therefore our first task is to assess the reporting source here, Andrew Jenson. Is he anti- Mormon? Just the opposite — he is an official church historian trying to defend the church. Second, was he known as wildly speculative, given to concocting outlandish stories? No, just the opposite. He was stolid, enormously laborious, very good at accumulating information in unimaginative, reliable ways. Finally, was he dishonest? No, I am confident that no one would assert that. Would he have lightly made an incorrect listing of a woman on the list? No, clearly not. He certainly realized the gravity of what he was publishing.
The best treatment of Andrew Jenson as a historian is found in Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington’s Mormons and Their Historians. They write of Jenson that “His was not great interpretive history, but it was factual, honest history.” This is far from Anderson and Faulring’s picture of Jenson bolstering his plural marriage argument by padding a list of wives on flimsy or no evidence. Bitton and Arrington also write, “Jenson’s style was factual and simple, emphasizing accuracy in dates and figures.” Bitton and Arrington emphasize that Jenson’s historical method is not imaginative or interpretive; instead, it is “factual” and “accurate.”
So, we must ask, were Jenson’s sources reliable? Anderson and Faulring write that he included these three women “without information on why he included a given person.” This is not strictly true. Immediately before the list, Jenson wrote, “Summing up the information received from the parties already mentioned and from other sources, we find that the following named ladies, besides a few others, about whom we have been unable to get all the necessary information, were sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith during the last three years of his life.” He got his information “from the parties already mentioned” previously in the article (which published a number of affidavits) “and from other sources.” These were many of the women and men who had been in Nauvoo and who had known Joseph Smith and his plural wives intimately, such as William Clayton (who performed one of Joseph Smith’s plural marriages) and Benjamin Johnson (two of whose sisters married Joseph Smith). And it includes some of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, who were alive and living in Utah. Furthermore, Jenson left off the list names of women “about whom we have been unable to get all the necessary information.” The women he allowed on the list did have the “necessary information” to back them up.
I cannot imagine that Anderson and Faulring would deny that Joseph Smith’s living plural wives were very good sources for information on other plural wives, because they socialized with each other in Nauvoo and later, as is shown often in my book. How many of Joseph’s wives were available to Jenson as sources in the 1880’s, when he was doing his research on Joseph’s plural wives? I list those who were alive in that time period (the 1880’s), though those who died before 1887 are given with death date: Zina Huntington Jacobs Smith Young (Salt Lake City). Presendia Huntington Buell Smith Kimball (Salt Lake City). Sylvia Sessions Lyon Smith Kimball Clark (Bountiful, just north of Salt Lake City, died 1882). Mary Rollins Lightner Smith Young (Beaver, frequently visited Salt Lake City). Patty Bartlett Sessions Smith (Bountiful). Marinda Johnson Hyde Smith (Salt Lake City, died 1886). Eliza R. Snow Smith Young (Salt Lake City). Martha McBride Knight Smith Kimball (Hooper, outside Ogden). Ruth Vose Sayers (died 1884, Salt Lake City). Emily Partridge Smith Young (Salt Lake City). Eliza Partridge Smith Lyman (Oak Creek, near Fillmore, in central Utah, died 1886). Almera Johnson Smith Barton (Parowan, in southern Utah). Lucy Walker Smith Kimball (Salt Lake City, Logan). Helen Mar Kimball Smith Whitney (Salt Lake City). Desdemona Fullmer Smith Benson McLane (Salt Lake City, died 1886). Melissa Lott Smith Bernhisel Willes (Lehi, some 40 miles south of Salt Lake City). Though most of these were living in northern Utah, Jenson often traveled through Utah doing local histories, so he might have met those not living in Salt Lake City.
Finally, there is documentary evidence that Jenson consulted with Joseph Smith’s plural wives while researching the subject of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. On February 10, 1887, Emmeline B. Wells wrote to Mary Elizabeth Lightner, one of Joseph’s widows, and mentioned Jenson’s ongoing research project documenting the plural wives of Joseph Smith: “Br. Jenson who publishes the Historical Record wants to get interesting biographical sketches and incidents of all those who are sealed to the Prophet Joseph for publication. I shall tell him to write to you for yours, I do think your life has been rich in wonderful experiences. He particularly wants dates of the ceremony performed.” This shows that Jenson had enlisted Emmeline B. Wells to reach out to Joseph Smith’s plural wives for information. Wells, of course, was or had been a good friend of many of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, such as Eliza Snow, Zina Young, Helen Mar Whitney and Sarah Ann Whitney Kimball. (Wells had been a plural wife of Newel K. Whitney in early Mormonism, so had close ties with the Whitney-Kimball axis of families.)
In a letter with no year date, but probably written in 1887, on June 8, Zina Huntington Young, another of Joseph’s widows, also wrote to Mary Lightner and mentioned the Jenson project, requesting her to write her life story for him: “Br Jenson the Editor is trying to get the names of Br Joseph Smith wives a little sketch of ther history their testimonies &c that will have a good influence and substanciate the truth, he wants to have, to place in his history, I promised to write to you, he gave me the book to send you // I know you are rich in experience and are capable of making an interesting chapter.” Two weeks later, in another letter, she renewed her request for Mary to write her history for Jenson.
Jenson contacted Helen Mar Whitney directly. On May 23, 1887, she wrote in her journal, “A Brother called to see me about writing my testimony concerning plural marriage as wife of the Prophet Joseph to publish in a monthly publication of his with that of others. He edits a Danish magazine — forget title.” A month later, on June 27, she again mentioned a visit from Jenson: “Bro. Gensen called to see me - wants me to write up incidents of my life as soon as I can. I gave him a few incidents of Flora Gove’s life who was a wife of Joseph Smith.” Flora Woodworth Gove is another wife of Joseph Smith who died before coming to Utah, so we have no affidavit evidence for her. But the second hand testimonies of William Clayton, Andrew Jenson, and Helen Mar are sufficient to accept her as Joseph Smith’s wife.
While some of the dates on these letters are after the first publication of Jenson’s list, they show how easy it was for him to contact living plural wives of Joseph Smith, and Zina Young’s letter to Elizabeth Lightner shows how Joseph’s widows themselves were helping Jenson.
Therefore, since you cannot attack Jenson as inherently unreliable or anti-Mormon, or his sources as unknowledgeable, it is difficult to see how you can reject his listing of wives. If you are going to throw this out as second hand, you should be consistent in throwing out all second hand evidence, which would be absurd. One certainly should use second-hand evidence carefully, and some of it certainly can be unreliable, but Jenson’s list is very solid second-hand evidence, with the short, strong chain of Jenson / living plural wives of Joseph Smith.
So, the burden of proof is on Anderson and Faulring to show that Jenson or his sources, Joseph Smith’s living plural wives, were not reliable witnesses. If they could produce an example of Jenson’s extreme bias, that would help. Anderson and Faulring do make a final argument attacking his reliability: “His research was imperfect, for he failed to name several women where adequate evidence shows they were sealed to the Prophet.” This is very weak — Jenson did not have our resources or accumulation of evidence. It is unfair to demand that he know all the wives we know about. That he knew about twenty-seven of them is a remarkable piece of research, though, of course, he had living widows of Joseph Smith to interview and even help him collect information.
If I had used John Bennett in a primary way, I would have been roundly attacked by Anderson and Faulring and Bachman. (And in fact, though I use Bennett in a very secondary way, Bachman still portrays me as completely influenced by him, p. 131.) But in a startling turn of events, here I am coming under fire for using Jenson, a very conservative source, an Assistant Church Historian — and moreover, a very reliable early historian.
So I find Anderson and Faulring’s attempt to trim my list from thirty-three to twenty-nine completely unconvincing, an unexplainable scholarly judgment. They probably will have an uphill battle if they want to seriously convince other historians that Jenson is dishonest, or incompetent, or that he did not have access to Joseph’s wives, or other knowledgeable Nauvoo veterans.
Incidentally, though Anderson and Faulring refer to Bachman’s list of thirty-one wives only in passing (pp. 72-73), Bachman included on his list the three women on Jenson’s list whom they disallow. In fact, Bachman includes one woman on his list whom I cautiously place on my Possible Wives list, Vienna Jacques. They attack me for allegedly not taking Bachman’s thesis seriously enough; then they do not take his judgment into account on an important issue.
Therefore, I would regard Jenson’s list, alone, as providing a strong case for accepting a woman as married to Joseph Smith. Anderson and Faulring will need to present a forceful demolition of Jenson’s credibility to change my mind on that. (And imagine what a strange picture that will present: modern FARMS/BYU researchers making an elaborate attack on the extremely conservative former Assistant Church Historian.) I am not arguing that Jenson is perfect; only that he is generally extremely trustworthy. If Anderson and Faulring can find evidence that Jenson, driven by anti-RLDS venom, was trying to pad his list dishonestly, I would be willing to consider it.
However, in considering the validity of these three women as plural wives, in no case was Jenson my only source. I will consider them one by one.
Jenson does not give us a specific date for this marriage, but many reliable women on the list are not given a specific date. (He lists Fanny Alger, Lucinda Harris, Hannah Ells, Flora Woodworth, Ruth Vose, Mary Lightner, Olive Frost, Rhoda Richards, Sylvia Sessions, Maria Winchester, Elvira Cowles, and Sarah Cleveland without specific dates.) Some women are only given a vague year for the marriage (Desdemona Fullmer, Sarah and Maria Lawrence.) However, Jenson does limit the time frame for Lucinda: she was “one of the first women sealed to the Prophet Joseph.” Jenson obviously is not simply speculating here.
Next, Lucinda had an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Temple, with her husband George Washington Harris standing proxy for Smith. As Anderson and Faulring note (p. 74), I use the evidence of these early proxy marriages cautiously (see In Sacred Loneliness, 2), since I discovered that one of them, Cordelia Morley Cox, wrote that Joseph Smith had proposed to her, but she had never married him while he lived. Therefore, I concluded that proxy marriages, by themselves, could not be used as certain evidence for a marriage to the living Joseph Smith. I think this was a careful, reasonable approach. Nevertheless, in my view, early proxy marriages, combined with other evidence, are very good evidence for a marriage to the living Joseph Smith. For instance, of the thirty-three women on my list, the following had early (i.e., Nauvoo Temple) proxy marriages to Joseph Smith: Lucinda Harris, Louisa Beaman, Zina Huntington Young, Presendia Huntington Kimball, Agnes Coolbrith Smith, Sylvia Sessions Lyon, Mary Rollins Lightner, Elizabeth Davis Durfee, Sarah Cleveland, Eliza Snow, Sarah Ann Whitney, Martha McBride Knight, Emily Partridge, Eliza Partridge, Lucy Walker, Sarah Lawrence, Maria Lawrence, Helen Mar Kimball, Elvira Cowles Holmes, Rhoda Richards, Desdemona Fullmer, Olive Frost, Melissa Lott, and Nancy Winchester.
The women who did not have early proxy marriages were mostly special cases. Hannah Ells died before the Nauvoo Temple was ready. Flora Woodworth eloped with a non-Mormon before the Temple was completed. Marinda Johnson Hyde was in a polyandrous relationship with an apostle. One can see that the polyandrous relationships might have made wives reluctant to solemnize marriages to Joseph Smith in the temple. Delcena Johnson had an early proxy marriage, but to her first husband, Lyman Sherman (she had married Smith as a widow). Patty Sessions was in a polyandrous relationship. Ruth Vose, in a polyandrous relationship, was married to a non- Mormon. Almera Johnson and Fanny Young are the only real exceptions.
Thus the great majority of Joseph Smith’s wives did have early proxy marriages to Smith in the Nauvoo Temple. Therefore, an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith is an important pointer, and if it will not prove the marriage to the living Joseph Smith by itself, it is very strong corroborative evidence.
Therefore, we have Jenson, who I would accept on his own, as evidence for Lucinda, but we also have another solid piece of entirely conservative evidence, the early proxy marriage. Those two, taken together, make a very solid case for Lucinda, unless we find equally good evidence contradicting it.
However, we have one more witness, Sarah Pratt, as reported in Wyl. Sarah was antagonistic, but in Lawrence Foster’s terminology, she is first-hand witness. She was in Nauvoo; she certainly knew Lucinda Morgan. So Anderson and Faulring’s attempts to simply disregard Pratt are not convincing. Sarah Pratt should be considered by any responsible historian. But I adduce Sarah as supporting evidence, after using Jenson and the proxy marriage as primary evidence, and as I usually do with this kind of evidence, I make allowances for extreme rhetoric.
With these three pieces of evidences corroborating each other (and I would trust Jenson alone), Lucinda is a very solid case.
First, there is Jenson, and again, I would trust Jenson alone. But once more, there are multiple pieces of corroborative evidence. There is the early Nauvoo Temple proxy marriage to Joseph Smith, with John Smith standing proxy. In addition, Eliza Snow later testified that when she (Eliza) married Joseph Smith on June 29, 1842, Sarah Cleveland stood as one of the witnesses. This was a task usually given to previously married wives of the prophet. For instance, Sylvia Sessions Lyon was present when her mother Patty was sealed to Joseph on March 9, 1842. (In Sacred Loneliness, 179.) Louisa Beaman was present when Almera Johnson married Joseph. (In Sacred Loneliness, 297.) Eliza Partridge was present when Lucy Walker married Joseph, and also when Elvira Cowles Holmes married him. (In Sacred Loneliness, 465, 548.)
Sometimes family members were present at plural marriages (e.g., In Sacred Loneliness, 81, 349), but obviously Sarah Cleveland was not a relative of Eliza Snow. Anderson and Faulring suggest that Sarah was present at Eliza’s marriage only because Eliza was staying at her house. However, polygamy was such a closely guarded secret that it is unlikely that this was the reason, especially considering the evidence adduced above. (For the cloak-and- dagger atmosphere of secrecy found in Nauvoo polygamy, see In Sacred Loneliness, 59, 350.) Again, I would not propose this alone; but as corroborative evidence it has real weight.
Eliza R. Snow, Sarah’s good friend, lived until December 5, 1887, and Andrew Jenson had complete access to Eliza in the years while he was researching his list. In fact, Eliza would be Jenson’s logical source. However, Sarah Cleveland’s daughter, Augusta, had married John Lyman Smith, and had come to Utah. She was also available as a source, for she lived till 1903, dying in Idaho.
Again, I would be happy to rest my case with Jenson. However, once again, Jenson has impressive corroborative evidence. First, we have an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Temple. Then we have Orson Whitney’s Life of Heber Kimball, which was published in Salt Lake City in 1888. Orson wrote, “After the death of the Prophet Joseph, who had also taken many wives, most of his widows were married, for time, to Brigham, Heber and others of the martyr’s brethren. The wives of the Prophet who wedded Heber C. Kimball were Sarah Ann Whitney, eldest daughter of Bishop N.K. Whitney; Lucy Walker, Prescindia Huntington, Sarah Lawrence, Mary Houston, Martha McBride, Sylvia P. Sessions, Nancy Maria Smith and Sarah Scott.” (p. 431) On p. 436, Whitney lists wives of Heber who have not had children by him, “most” of whom were aged ladies who he did not live with. (This would not be the case with Nancy Maria, who was very young when Heber married her.) Among them he lists “Maria Winchester.”
Orson apparently did not understand that “Maria Winchester” was the same as “Nancy Maria Smith.” But there is little doubt that this was the case. Subsequent lists of Heber C. Kimball’s wives show that the only Nancy Maria in his family was Nancy Maria Winchester.
With that aside, Whitney’s list is interesting for a number of reasons. First, close readers of my book will notice two names I did not include on my list of 33 wives, Mary Houston and Sarah Scott. However, they are on my Possible Wives list. Anderson and Faulring suggest that I thus treat Whitney’s list as “questionable” (p. 77). If I thought Whitney was unreliable evidence — anti-Mormon, sensationalizing, not having access to solid sources — I obviously would have never mentioned him at all. Actually, I did not include Mary and Sarah only because I wanted to “err on the side of caution.” I seriously debated including Sarah, especially since her proxy marriage was to her first husband, James Mulholland, not to Joseph Smith (which showed that Whitney was not simply using an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith as his evidence.) However, I decided that, to avoid even the appearance of padding my list, I would put Sarah and Mary in the “Possible Wives” category, though Sarah is a very strong “Possible Wife.” (I would have never expected a conservative, FARMS-sponsored attack on the credibility of Jenson and Whitney, obviously.)
I should emphasize that Whitney’s list overtly refers to women who married Joseph Smith before his death. It is not referring to proxy marriages. This is proven by the fact that Sarah Scott did not have a proxy marriage to Joseph Smith. In fact, the Book of Proxy, #160, the original Nauvoo Temple proxy sealing record, refers to her as “Sarah Smith,” see In Sacred Loneliness, 631.
Who was Orson Whitney? At the time of writing the Kimball biography, he was an influential bishop in one of the central Salt Lake City wards, an important journalist for the Deseret News and a popular Church speaker and orator. He would later be called as an apostle. There is no question, by any stretch of imagination, that he was writing out of anti- Mormon bias. Furthermore, he also wrote the multi-volumed History of Utah that stands in the same category as Jenson’s work: first rate, unimaginative, generally reliable history, written from the perspective of the most conservative Mormonism. He was not one given to wild fictionalizing as a historian.
Did he have access to Kimball family and Smith family sources? His mother was Helen Mar Kimball (Smith Whitney), the only living daughter of Heber Kimball with his first wife Vilate. Orson thus grew up knowing the extensive Kimball family on an intimate basis. And Helen Mar, of course, had been an actual wife of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and was friendly with other Smith widows in Salt Lake City. Orson had frequent contact with his mother while he wrote the biography of his grandfather. As if that were not enough, his aunt Sarah Ann Whitney Kimball, his father’s sister, had also been a plural wife of Joseph Smith and of Heber C. Kimball.
In summary, I regard Anderson and Faulring’s attempts to undermine Jenson’s and Whitney’s credibility, along with all the corroborative evidence supporting their lists, as unconvincing and extremely odd.
So we finally turn to Elizabeth Davis (Anderson and Faulring, p. 76). Though she does not show up on Jenson’s list, the sheer weight of evidence, conservative and antagonistic, pointing to her as a wife of Joseph is very impressive. If we were dealing with one or even two flimsy pieces of evidence, Anderson and Faulring might have a reasonable argument for disallowing her — but that is not the case.
To look at conservative evidence first, there is an early, Nauvoo Temple proxy marriage to Joseph Smith. As I mentioned above, this is an important pointer. Though I would not accept it alone, if there is corroborative evidence I accept it as very convincing.
Second, Emily Partridge’s autobiographical writings show that Elizabeth Davis acted for Joseph Smith as an agent in recruiting Emily into polygamy (In Sacred Loneliness, 407). As I have mentioned above, there is a great deal of evidence showing that Joseph often used his previously married wives in approaching prospective wives. Louisa Beaman and Delcena Johnson help prepare Almera Johnson (In Sacred Loneliness, 297); Marinda Hyde tries to prepare Nancy Rigdon (In Sacred Loneliness, 239). The data for previous wives present at marriage ceremonies, adduced above, at the very least shows previous wives giving moral support to the proceedings, and may be the sign of previous socialization of the prospective wife by the other wives.
Taken together, these two pieces of evidence create a good foundation for Elizabeth as a plural wife of Smith. But there is further evidence, Bennett, Sarah Pratt, and Jackson. The former two are very “primary” antagonistic evidence. Bennett, for all his character flaws, was in Nauvoo, was a close friend of Joseph Smith, and was an Assistant President of the church. His list of plural wives is made more believable by the fact that it is not surrounded by rhetoric — it is a bare list. And other names on the list fit with supporting evidence. It is interesting that here, for the first time, Elizabeth Durfee and Patty Sessions are found linked with each other. Patty, of course, was certainly a plural wife of Joseph Smith, for in her own diaries she left a record of her marriage ceremony to Smith. (She left no formal affidavit.)
Sarah Pratt, the wife of an important early apostle, was also in Nauvoo and in Utah. She said, “She [Elizabeth] boasted here in Salt Lake of having been one of Joseph’s plural wives.” (quoted in In Sacred Loneliness, 701.) Anderson and Faulring seem to be certain that Sarah could not have heard Elizabeth do the boasting, but supply no reason for this. That seems to be the import of the statement to me. Elizabeth was in Utah for a period of time. Sarah Pratt was in Utah. Anderson and Faulring’s reasoning escapes me here.
Joseph Jackson was a more peripheral figure in Nauvoo Mormonism than Bennett and Pratt, so, once again, I use him only as corroboration. But he is valuable corroboration. He asserts that Elizabeth, with two other women, was a “Mother in Israel” who helped teach younger women the principles of polygamy. He does not explicitly say that “Mothers in Israel” were wives of Joseph Smith. Nevertheless his list is as follows: “Mrs. Tailar, old Madam Durfee and old Madam Sessions.” (quoted at In Sacred Loneliness, 260). Once again, we see Elizabeth Durfee linked with Patty Sessions, and we know that Patty was a plural wife of Joseph Smith. Note that Emily Partridge supports Jackson, for she portrays Elizabeth as helping facilitate Joseph’s marriage to her, a younger woman.
There is one more source, this one sympathetic, that links Elizabeth and Patty. In the Willard Richards journal, July 9, 1845, we read that “Sister Durphy, Sessions, Rhoda [Richards]” (another older wife of Joseph Smith) and other women helped prepared Willard Richard’s wife for burial. (In Sacred Loneliness, 264). This supports a pattern in Bennett and Jackson, the linking of Elizabeth and Patty.
Starting from the proxy marriage and adding all of these data, we end up with a very strong case for Elizabeth Durfee as a plural wife. Note how each piece of evidence supports other pieces of evidence. Elizabeth Durfee and Patty Sessions are linked by Bennett, Jackson, Willard Richards. Elizabeth Durfee as agent for recruiting young plural wives is found in Partridge and Jackson. Elizabeth as plural wife of Joseph is shown by the proxy marriage, Bennett, and Pratt, and is supported by the linking with Patty Sessions. So unless Anderson and Faulring find actual positive evidence showing that Elizabeth was not a wife of Joseph, the case for her as one of Joseph’s older plural wives remains very strong, in my view.
Anderson and Faulring (pp. 78-79) agree that Fanny Alger married Joseph Smith in Kirtland, but propose an 1835 date for her marriage to Joseph, rather than February or March 1833, as my book suggests. (In Sacred Loneliness, 32-33.) To do this they reject the clear witness of Mosiah Hancock reporting Levi Hancock, and assert that Benjamin Johnson is a more reliable authority on this question.
Both Mosiah and Benjamin were writing late reminiscences, Mosiah writing in 1896, Benjamin writing in 1903. Both sources are second hand, as neither Mosiah nor Benjamin witnessed the marriage of Smith and Alger. However, Mosiah, Fanny Alger’s full cousin, had as his informant someone who was actually present at the marriage of Smith and Alger, his father Levi, and who in fact performed the ceremony. Furthermore, Anderson and Faulring agree that Mosiah/Levi Hancock are “no doubt correct in general circumstances of Fanny’s Kirtland sealing.” (p. 78). Nevertheless, they unaccountably contend that “Benjamin’s recollections furnish the most reliable chronology available.” (Ibid.)
They argue that Benjamin, as a teenager in Kirtland, was a first-hand witness of Kirtland polygamy circumstances, while Mosiah was very young. However, Benjamin as a teenager in Kirtland clearly heard only rumors of the Smith-Alger marriage, so he is as much a second-hand witness as Mosiah. Mosiah’s source, however, his father Levi, was a first-hand witness to the Smith-Alger marriage, while Johnson had no similar “inside” source, no witness to the marriage ceremony. And the chronology of Levi clearly places the marriage of Smith-Alger back in early 1833. If Anderson and Faulring were to reject Levi/Mosiah Hancock completely, they might have a more logical case for rejecting the 1833 date.
A careful look at Benjamin Johnson’s statements shows how he was dependent on rumor of the Smith-Alger marriage. “In 1835 at Kirtland I learned from my Sisters Husband Lyman R. Shirman, who was close to the Prophet and Recieved it from him. ‘That the ancient order of plural marriage was again to be practiced by the Church . . .” Johnson himself was not close to Joseph Smith at this stage. “Altho there then lived with his Family a Neighbors daughter Fanny Alger . . . and it was whispered eaven then that Joseph Loved her . . .” Note that Johnson only heard rumors, whispers.
There is trouble between Joseph Smith and Oliver Cowdery, “and whisper Said it was Relating to a girl then living in his [Smith’s] Family.” Once again, Johnson is reporting rumor, “whisper.” “And I was afterwords told by Warren Parish That he himself & Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fanny Alger as a wife for They were Spied upon & found together.” Once again, Benjamin reports what Parrish told him, which is valuable, as I have mentioned that second hand evidence can be usable. But Johnson’s source, Parrish, is not bearing witness to the beginning of the Smith-Alger marriage, the ceremony.
Johnson does not contradict Mosiah/Levi Hancock. He merely reports that he, not an intimate of Joseph Smith in 1835, began to hear rumors of polygamy and rumors of Joseph’s marriage to Fanny at that time. This obviously does not preclude a secret ceremony in 1833, but actually fits in with that picture. Even if Johnson had contradicted Mosiah/Levi Hancock, Mosiah and Levi, as close relatives of Fanny, and Levi with first-hand knowledge of the marriage, are witnesses closer to the truth than Johnson was. Johnson’s account of the rumors and whispers of the marriage is valuable, but it does not deny Mosiah and Levi Hancock’s account of the ceremony.
If you successfully discount Mosiah/Levi’s credibility, you might get rid of the earlier dating for the Alger-Smith marriage, but then you lose your best evidence for a formal marriage with ceremony. So Anderson and Faulring’s attempt to redate the ceremony by arguing that Mosiah/Levi are unreliable only on this point is very unconvincing.
Anderson and Faulring refer to my work as “psychohistory” (p. 71), a term associated with Fawn Brodie’s Freudian style of biography, a characterization that certainly took me by surprise. Every biographer tries to get into the mind of his or her subject; every biographer tries to sympathize with his or her subject and understand how he or she thought or felt. But “psychohistory” refers to a historian who uses, in a pronounced way, a doctrinaire psychological theory to examine his or her subject. For instance, a Freudian interpretation of Luther would be psychohistory. So Anderson and Faulring’s characterization of my work as psychohistory seems to me flatly incorrect.
Anderson and Faulring certainly look as if they are trying to paint me into the same corner with Brodie. Their description of my purported “naturalistic tendencies” would also put me in Brodie’s camp. I find this extremely odd, given my repeated critiques of Brodie, and my stark ideological variances from Brodie (both in the matter of Freud and the matter of God).
Anderson and Faulring take me to task for “undervaluing” a paper by Gordon Madsen on legal issues connected with Joseph Smith and the Lawrence sisters. (p. 91.) Here I faced great difficulties. I was lucky enough to be present at Madsen’s 1996 MHA presentation, and obtained a copy of his handout, and tried to take notes during his presentation. However, this was not easy, because Madsen, an attorney, was dealing with technical legal issues, and as a non-lawyer, I did not understand everything he said immediately. Sometimes he was commenting on legal documents shown on an overhead projector, and some of these were not on the handout. (And in the dark it was not easy to take notes.) At the end of the presentation, I talked to Madsen, and told him I’d like to get together and go over the material more fully. He did not look enthusiastic, but gave me his card. He said the article was going to be published in the Journal of Mormon History. I called him in the following days, leaving a message on his machine. But he did not return my call, to the best of my knowledge. (I was staying with relatives in Salt Lake City.)
This was not an ideal situation for me. Evidently he did not want to share his research with me further. But I think every scholar has the complete right to work on his material till he feels that he is ready to share it with the world in organized, polished fashion, so I did not feel comfortable calling him up again and demanding all of his documents and rough drafts. I had no alternative but to wait for the Journal of Mormon History paper. When that did not appear before my book went to press, I tried to use my notes for Madsen’s paper as best I could, for In Sacred Loneliness. (Madsen’s paper still has not been published at the time of writing.) zx
Under these circumstances, how can Anderson and Faulring criticize me for not fully reporting the findings of an unpublished paper? I did the best I could with what Madsen was willing to make public in a limited, oral presentation. (And I welcomed his technically knowledgeable evaluation of the Lawrence situation, and the documents he presented. I could have easily left them out, as Madsen’s paper was not published.) But I straightforwardly wrote, “I have followed Madsen as closely as possible from my notes, but do not have his written argument and citations.” (In Sacred Loneliness, 742.)
As for William Law, once again, Anderson and Faulring seem to suggest that William Law’s memories were entirely false and deceptive, and I should not have referred to them at all. In fact, Law was in Nauvoo; he knew Joseph Smith and the Lawrence sisters. His memories of the events in question deserve to be looked at and assessed. Anderson and Faulring’s suggestion that Law’s memories are all true or all false is problematic to me. People may make factual errors in their memories, yet the memories can still have validity in some ways. (And it is wrong to completely demonize William Law; for a view of his humanity, see In Sacred Loneliness, 405.)
In summary, Anderson and Faulring in all fairness should have commended me for knowing about Madsen’s work and trying to use it as much as I could under difficult circumstances. But until Madsen actually publishes his work, it is absurd to critique me for not using it adequately.
I did not focus on Emma in my book. Newell and Avery have written an excellent full- length biography of her, so I did not feel the need to write a chapter on her. Nevertheless, she is a character in my book, so I did mention and discuss her at some points, though she is not a focus.
Based on the evidence we have, my conclusion is that Joseph Smith generally did not tell Emma before he married a plural wife. Anderson and Faulring apparently take the position that Joseph Smith often consulted with Emma before marrying plural wives. (pp. 84-86, especially 85- 86, “the Prophet surely sought Emma’s consent in taking other wives.”)
The ideal in all polygamy was that the first wife would be consulted by the husband, would be asked for her permission, then would either give it or withhold it, which theoretically she had power to do. When she gave it, there was a ritual in which the first wife placed the hand of the plural wife into the hand of her husband. In practice this system was sometimes used, and the husband consulted with his first wife’s feelings before marrying a new wife. There are occasions in which she did not agree, so he did not marry the plural wife. For an example of this kind of sensitivity, see the story of Franklin Weaver. Sometimes the first wife actually encouraged the husband to take a plural wife.
However, if a wife withheld her permission, she might be viewed as rebelling against the priesthood, so in some situations it was difficult for a wife to withhold permission, even when she wanted to. Many women gave permission for further wives only grudgingly. In some cases, the husband simply married without letting his first wife or previous wives know. The classic example of this was Heber C. Kimball, who said, at his first wife Vilate’s funeral, “I have taken 40 wives & many without her knowledge.”
In the case of Joseph Smith, in only four cases do we have evidence that Emma knew about the marriages before they were solemnized: the Lawrence sisters (In Sacred Loneliness, 743); possibly Eliza R. Snow; and possibly Melissa Lott. The Partridge sisters are a special case, for there were two marriages ceremonies for each of them. First Joseph married them without Emma’s knowledge, then, when Emma selected them to marry Joseph, they resolemnized the marriages. So though Emma gave her permission for them to marry Joseph, they are nevertheless a solid example of Joseph marrying without Emma’s knowledge.
In five of the six marriages above (counting the second Partridge marriages), Emma was reportedly present at the marriages. In no other plural marriages do we have evidence that Emma was present when Joseph’s marriages were solemnized. For example, Emma does not figure in the accounts of the Fanny Alger marriage ceremony. She enters the picture only as an angry wife demanding that Fanny leave her house, possibly when Fanny was pregnant, not accepting her as a plural wife. She is also not present at the very secret marriage of Joseph Smith to Louisa Beaman in Nauvoo.
If we had evidence that Emma was present at other marriages, this would bolster Anderson and Faulring’s apparent arguments that Emma usually knew and agreed to Joseph Smith’s marriages. But the lack of any positive evidence for her permission, and her conspicuous absence in any marriage ceremonies except the three (not counting the duplicative Partridge ceremonies) mentioned above, and her anger when she did discover evidence of a relationship, suggest that she was not part of the inner polygamy circle, except in the cases of the Partridges (for the second ceremonies) and the Lawrences, Snow (possibly), Melissa Lott (possibly),.
When Heber C. Kimball married his first plural wife, he did so without informing his first wife Vilate, despite his deep love for her. It is significant that he did this under the explicit instruction of Joseph Smith, “for fear that she [Vilate] would not receive the principle.” This shows that for Joseph Smith, if the husband suspected that a first wife would not receive a plural wife, the husband was morally justified in marrying the plural wife without the first wife’s knowledge.
When Joseph asks Newel and Elizabeth Whitney, and Sarah Ann Whitney Smith to meet him secretly soon after he had married Sarah Ann (and again, Emma does not figure in the accounts of the ceremony), he specifically enjoins them to come when Emma is not present. He wrote, “the only thing to be careful of; is to find out when Emma comes then you cannot be safe, but when she is not here, there is the most perfect safty . . .” (See In Sacred Loneliness, 350.) In my view, this passage, combined with the fact that Emma was not present during Sarah Ann’s marriage to Joseph, suggests that Emma was not part of the inner circle that knew of Sarah Ann’s marriage to Joseph.
If Anderson and Faulring can find positive evidence that shows Emma was present during more plural marriage ceremonies, this would strengthen their position.
Anderson and Faulring describe In Sacred Loneliness as pure negativity, and accuse me of mounting a single-minded “campaign” [p. 70] against polygamy. In such a situation, one would expect them to marshal information from other sources to show that polygamy was not as bad as I have described it. However, Anderson and Faulring follow the curious strategy of showing my book’s negativity by adducing positive evidence for polygamy from the pages of In Sacred Loneliness itself. For instance, they quote (p. 71) a supposed negative comment on polygamy from In Sacred Loneliness: Orson Whitney followed his grandfather and father “in accepting the onerous burden of polygamy” (In Sacred Loneliness, 531.) Actually, this is an example of Anderson and Faulring taking a very neutral statement in In Sacred Loneliness and portraying it as negative. Polygamy, good or bad, was an onerous burden for husbands, both financially, emotionally, and from a standpoint of dividing time. To combat this supposed negative statement, they write, “Actually, Orson married his second wife with the consent of the first and lived in the normative dual-wife pattern in Utah.” Anderson and Faulring continue: “In fact, Compton describes how well this two- household system worked through the fairness of Horace Whitney, Orson’s father, and the considerate sisterhood of his wives (see [In Sacred Loneliness] p. 513).” If I were pursuing a “campaign” against polygamy and Mormon polygamists, why would I include this “positive” information in my book?
Anderson and Faulring quote a number of positive statements about polygamy from In Sacred Loneliness on p. 98. Again, this does not fit in with their characterization of my book as driven by pure negativity.
In my treatment of Emily Partridge and Brigham Young, Anderson and Faulring accuse me of using “selective evidence” (p. 97) to portray that difficult relationship as worse than it really was. Yet they mention Brigham’s providing Emily homes to live in (all well attested in my chapter), and end with Emily’s statement at Brigham death: “I believe President Young has done his whole duty towards Joseph Smith’s family. They have sometimes felt that their lot was hard, but no blame or censure rests upon him.” (p. 98, quoting In Sacred Loneliness, 423.) Once again, Anderson and Faulring cite their “contrary evidence” from In Sacred Loneliness itself.
Anderson and Faulring assert that In Sacred Loneliness “avoids a detailed discussion of the deeply religious and moral principles undergirding the implementation of Mormon plural marriage. Compton’s presentation offers little that could be considered faithful or sympathetic understanding of the doctrinal foundations of the practice.” (p. 99). Once again, Anderson and Faulring seem to portray me as far over in the Brodie secularist camp. But then the careful reader may very well scratch his head, for on p. 68, Anderson and Faulring write, “Compton recognizes that deep spiritual conviction was at the base of reestablishing the marriage system of the ancient patriarchs.” (They then quote from In Sacred Loneliness, 312.) The flat contradiction between these two quotes is especially striking. And just two pages after p. 99, we read, “. . . personal revelation through promptings and visions . . . induced the men and women around the Prophet to accept plural marriage.” This would be a good place for Anderson and Faulring to list such promptings and visions that I had left out because of my supposed “naturalistic”/atheist viewpoint. But Anderson and Faulring do not need to — for reasons that obviously contradict their “naturalistic” portrayal of me, I often included references to such passages. Anderson and Faulring continue: “Many of their spiritual verifications are quoted by the author, whose industry and honesty are admirable in liberally presenting the words of these early Saints.”
What is my explanation of these (frequent) positive statements about polygamy in a book that often looks at its limitations? I continue to agree with my main thesis — by definition, a polygamous husband is divided (emotionally, and in respect to his time and resources) — more and more, depending on the extent of his polygamy. Yet when extraordinary, Christlike people practiced it, it did not prevent them from being extraordinary and Christlike. (At the same time, many flawed people, male and female, practiced it, with often tragic results. Some polygamous men, I felt, would have been successful monogamous husbands, but the strains of polygamy caused them to divide themselves in ways that were not fair to some of their wives.)
My short answer is: I included many of those positive things about polygamy in my book because I was trying to be a balanced historian. I think this is one more example of Anderson and Faulring misunderstanding, and being intolerant of, a moderate position.
Anderson and Faulring object to my providing a “road-map” to the reader too often, especially with reference to the central theme of my book. I regret that these statements of my thesis seemed too heavy-handed to Anderson and Faulring and readers similar to them. However, all authors will remember times when readers did not understand the thesis of a paper, or in fact, did not understand that the paper even had an overarching thesis. So I wanted to make clear what the organizing interpretation of my book was. I did not want my book to be seen as mere “compilation” history. Certainly, if I had been a better writer, I might have expressed my thesis in ways that Anderson and Faulring might have found more acceptable. But on the other hand, structurally, I think it is entirely justified to state one’s central theme, then refer to it from time to time. I do not think I drag it in when it has no connection to the content of the biography in question.
Bachman spends most of his review criticizing three or four pages in my prologue in every possible way, then in effect says, What if everything else in the book is just as completely, absolutely false? (p. 137.) By this reasoning, one doesn’t have to make the effort to read, review and assess the whole book.
Bachman does not allow me even a shred of possible validity in those three or four pages he reviews in detail. His analysis reminds me of those comical legal documents in which the attorney objects to every single word in the opposing document. Bachman asserts that I am writing “pure fantasy” (133); and I have “taken” Mormon arch-enemy John C. Bennett’s “bait.” (p. 131). He repeats over and over again that I do not have even minimal competence as a historian: “He is imprecise in analyzing texts.” “His historical analysis is elementary.” (p. 135) Bachman is not merely saying that he disagrees with me. He would have you believe that I am given to hallucinations.
While I do not think that my book is perfect, and fully agree that competent historians might disagree with sections of it, I think this scorched-earth rhetoric undermines Bachman’s position. In regard to the question of whether I have minimal competence as a historian, the book has received awards from historical organizations I respect, the Mormon History Association and the RLDS John Whitmer Historical Society. Bachman might argue that these awards might have been influenced by the biographies of the women rather than the first chapter which he attacks. However, as has been mentioned, this very chapter was published first as an article in Dialogue, and as an article, was singled out for special recognition, winning the Mormon History Association’s “T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence for an Article in Mormon History” in May 1997. While these awards are not blanket endorsements of all the details found in my book, the experienced historians who were on the panels that gave the awards would not reward a writer given to “pure fantasy,” who lacked even minimal competence in the historian’s craft.
A more level-headed approach would have been for Bachman to review the whole book, give a balanced assessment of its strengths and weaknesses, then say he disagrees strongly with some aspects of the prologue. (None of these three reviewers seem very interested in the actual women who were the focus of my book. At least, they did not spend much time discussing the women I focus on, but they instead focus on Joseph Smith.)
So let’s look at the few pages that Bachman disagrees with in my Prologue, that lead him to hint darkly that the rest of the 824 pages in the book are completely worthless. There are basically two issues here: (1) why Joseph Smith married so many women and (2) why he married some women who was already married to other men in civil marriages. This second issue is broken down into two parts: (a) the religious “illegality” of civil marriages as opposed to “eternal” priesthood marriages, and (b) the idea that some couples were linked in the pre-existence.
Issue one: Why did Joseph Smith marry so many women? Abraham, Joseph Smith’s primary model, did not marry many women — why did Joseph? He could have married two women and fulfilled the polygamy requirement. Now, if I’d been in Brodie’s camp, it would have been easy to say, he simply was simply sexually promiscuous. Brodie writes, “For once Joseph had succeeded to his own satisfaction in revolutionizing the Puritan concept of sin, there was no stopping him.” However, as I have mentioned, my book is a reaction against Brodie. So when faced with this issue, I looked for a religious reason for the number of wives in Joseph’s family.
My search for a religious motivation does not merit any praise, or even recognition, from Bachman; he must go on the attack. I look to a number of sympathetic sources that create a scenario for number of wives, the idea that the greater the size of a man’s kingdom on this earth, the greater his dominion and glory in the next life. (In Sacred Loneliness, 10-11) There are Benjamin Johnson (a friend of Joseph Smith, writing in a memoir); Joseph Fielding (a Nauvoo period journal); and Helen Smith (wife of a church patriarch, in a letter, 1857.) I use the word salvation instead of exaltation, or highest degree of glory, since my book was not written to lifetime Mormons alone; part of its audience was non-Mormons. But obviously, Latter-day Saints view salvation in the context of three degrees of glory, and within them, sublevels. For the LDS, the fullness of salvation is to achieve the highest possible glory. So I equate the non-LDS view of “salvation” with “highest possible eschatological status.” Now here are the words in question: “Dominion & powr in the great Future” (Johnson), “a Man,s Dominion will be a God,s” (Fielding) and “greater glory” (Smith). All of which are dependent on the quantity of the family. (I also use a number of other sources in this section that Bachman should have mentioned: Jedediah Grant; sources relating to the practice of adoption in late Nauvoo and early Utah; and sources relating to the importance of the Abrahamic promise in Joseph Smith’s writings.)
Bachman writes: “where does Johnson say ‘complete salvation’?” A summary by its very nature does not simply quote the summarized text. However, to say, as Bachman does, that “Dominion & powr in the great Future” (Johnson), “a Man,s Dominion will be a God,s” (Fielding) and “greater glory” (Smith) have absolutely nothing to do with “salvation,” “exaltation,” and “highest possible eschatological status” is to my mind absurd.
Bachman attacks my argument here from every possible angle. He vehemently denies that Joseph Smith taught this doctrine (“as if they all reflect the thinking and practice of Joseph Smith,” p. 135) despite the fact that Benjamin Johnson wrote, “the Prophet taught us that” (cited in In Sacred Loneliness, 10). If Fielding (who had close ties to the Smith family) is holding to a very similar doctrine in Nauvoo, and Johnson tells us Joseph Smith was the source (and Johnson was a close confidant of Joseph Smith), it is not a wild jump, “pure fantasy,” to suppose that the doctrine had its origin with Joseph Smith.
It is curious to me that Bachman should write so emotionally on this issue, as my discussion here is not by any means an attack on Joseph Smith. It is more an attack on the one-sided sexual analysis of Fawn Brodie.
Finally, as is typical of Bachman in his review, he tries to utterly discount my argument, but then he does not give an alternate explanation for the number of Joseph’s plural wives. He is not offering a constructive critique, part of a discussion intended to further insight.
As Bachman turns to polyandry, he disapprovingly observes that I reject the perspective of “informed Mormons” (p. 119) that Joseph Smith was sealed to married women primarily because they were married to unworthy men. Bachman himself offered this theory in his thesis as I note at In Sacred Loneliness, 639. I respectfully disagreed with this theory, as a holistic explanation for polyandry, but I in fact respected, and respect his master’s thesis. He is one of the few conservative Mormon historians who has even made an attempt to consider the issue of Joseph Smith and polyandry.
But when I had arrived at a list of wives that I felt I could rely on, there were eleven women who were polyandrous, but only four of the eleven had problematic marriages (three married to non-Mormons, one to a disaffected Mormon). Even if Bachman’s explanation might apply to those four, it did not apply to the totality of the marriages, so I had to look elsewhere for an explanation of Smith’s polyandry. Once again, Bachman is willing to characterize my writing as “pure fantasy,” but then has not supplied a positive, alternate explanation for those seven marriages.
When faced with this problem, again, as I have mentioned, I looked for a religious, doctrinal rationale, whereas if I’d been following the Brodie path, I would have simply portrayed Joseph Smith as pursuing other men’s wives for sexual reasons.
Bachman writes, in a heated rhetorical question, “. . . are we obligated to accept and believe it [an interpretation] as Todd Compton has recounted it?” (p. 133) Let me reemphasize that the quotations I cite and the concepts I develop have been useful to me in understanding a complex issue, but I never meant them to be put forward as some kind of binding doctrinal pronouncement, or a final, authoritative historical position. I have never dogmatically demanded that anyone accept them. All readers are completely free to consider them, accept or reject them in part or completely, then, if they wish, turn to other interpretations they find more useful. If significant new evidence is found in the future, they may be modified.
The first concept that I felt was useful in this regard was the concept of religious “illegality” of civil marriages in Nauvoo Mormonism (and I quote John D. Lee and Orson Pratt). I’m not sure that Bachman and I are seriously disagreeing about anything here. He presents evidence that Mormons engaged in civil marriage in Kirtland, Missouri and Nauvoo, as they certainly did, though he shows that sometimes Joseph Smith did not require divorce from a civil marriage before remarriage in a Mormon context. However, I was not suggesting that Joseph Smith and the Mormons were rejecting civil marriage within an earthly context. But just as a Mormon marriage performed in a Mormon chapel by a Mormon bishop today is not seen to have any eternal consequence, so all marriages apart from eternal sealings were seen to be of a lower nature once Joseph had begun to practice celestial marriage.
Bachman makes a distinction between civil marriages performed by non-Mormons and civil marriages performed by Mormons, but for the purpose of my argument, that distinction is not really significant. All marriages performed among Mormons since Kirtland were re-solemnized as eternal sealings in Nauvoo and later. I think this is what John D. Lee meant when he wrote, “About the same time the doctrine of ‘sealing’ for an eternal state was introduced, and the Saints were given to understand that their marriage relations with each other were not valid . . . They were married to each other only by their own covenants.” (Quoted at In Sacred Loneliness, 17.) Lee does not make a distinction between earlier civil marriages performed by non-Mormons or Mormons. He makes a general statement referring to “the Saints.” Neither I, nor Lee, said that civil marriages were by definition “sinful” — according to Lee, they were sinful only if the partners continued the marriage “in alienation from each other.” However, their civil marriages did have the validity of “their own covenants” if they were “productive of blessings and peace” and were cemented “by love and affection.” So I agree that the lower, civil marriage, sometimes solemnized by Mormons, did have some limited validity to Mormons.
But my main point was that this kind of marriage, even if solemnized by Mormons, was still a lower form of marriage, compared to eternal sealings. From the eternal perspective, it was not a marriage at all. I think Bachman will agree with me completely here.
Another reference I cite that Bachman unaccountably overlooked is Jedediah Grant’s remarkable 1854 reference to polyandry. (Quoted at In Sacred Loneliness, 18, 639.) Grant, specifically talking in the context of Joseph’s polyandry, said, “Joseph says all covenants are done away, and none are binding but the new covenants.” Grant, a member of the First Presidency when he made the speech, was a Nauvoo veteran, and moreover was a close friend to Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball, who were thoroughly familiar with Joseph’s polyandrous marriages. Despite the “lower” validity of civil marriage, even that solemnized by Mormons, no covenants were binding “but the new covenants.”
I believe this principle gives insight into why Joseph Smith would superimpose one marriage (higher, eternal) onto another (lower, temporal) — from an eternal perspective, the other marriage had no validity, was not even a marriage. However, I agree with Bachman that even the lower marriages had some earthly validity if, as Lee wrote, they were “productive of blessings and peace” and were cemented “by love and affection.”
Finally, while Bachman would have you believe that my reasoning here is based on “pure fantasy,” other respected historians of polygamy have made this same argument. For instance, in Lawrence Foster’s treatment of what I refer to as polyandry, he calls it the “all previous covenants suspended” argument, and he quotes many of the same sources I do, including the John D. Lee quote. Unless Bachman is willing to accuse Foster, a respected historian of Mormon polygamy, of “pure fantasy” here also, he is practicing special pleading. In fact, Bachman’s own treatment of Nauvoo polygamy makes many of the same points I do, citing many of the same sources.
Second, a concept that I discovered in the Mary Elizabeth Lightner autobiographies was very useful to me when I was trying to understand the superimposition of higher upon a lower marriage. Mary wrote that Joseph Smith, when proposing to her while she was married to another man, said, “Joseph Said I was his, before I came here.” Elsewhere she wrote that Smith told her that, “I [Mary] was created for him before the foundation of the Earth was laid.” Certainly, if we accept Mary as a credible witness, Joseph was referring to a connection, a linking he had with Mary in the pre-existence as authorizing or requiring the polyandrous marriage.
I wrote: “he asserted that she had been sealed to him in the pre-existence.” Bachman objects to my use of the work “sealed” here, as Mary never used such a word. (p. 128) However, as I have mentioned before, a summary is never simply a direct quotation. Mary never used the word “pre-existence” here either, but it is clear that that was what she was referring to. Joseph’s statements to Mary Lightner show that he taught that he and Lightner were strongly linked in the pre-existence — she had belonged to him. In fact, she was expressly created for Joseph Smith. The Mormon term “seal” came to mean “link” by the Nauvoo period, and clearly Joseph and Mary were strongly linked in the pre-existence, according to Joseph’s teachings. But even if Bachman entirely disallowed the term “seal” as having absolutely no possible connection to this strong linking in the pre-existence, the strong linking in the pre-existence remains, and so my argument is not really affected.
As Bachman notes, I then proceed to look at all the available evidence that parallels this concept, from both Mormon and non-Mormon sources. Bachman objects strongly to my use of these non-Mormon sources, and strives to give the impression that I have based my whole argument on them. Actually, as I always try to do, I based my argument on sympathetic sources, the two quite authoritative references by Lightner. They alone would make my point here. We have just two autobiographical records of the eleven polyandrous marriages — the writings of Zina Huntington Young (sketchy) and Mary Rollins Lightner. This is the best evidence we have on how Joseph proposed to his polyandrous wives; they are very important sources. Nevertheless, I believe the other, non-Mormon, sources provide valuable context and depth here.
Bachman objects to my phrase “spiritual intuition” (referring to Joseph Smith) and states flatly that I thus exclude the possibility of revelation. “But Compton doesn’t entertain these or other possibilities.” (p. 128.) I’m at a loss to understand how Bachman came to this conclusion, but I did not mean “spiritual intuition” to in any way exclude the possibility of inspiration or revelation. Revelation I believe comes in many ways, from lengthy visions to subtle hints, from literal, physical angelic messengers to more impressionistic inspirations. In the priesthood lesson I attended on the day I first wrote this paragraph, we discussed Brigham Young’s very expansive concepts of revelation — “all the arts and sciences in the world are from God.” “From [God] has every astronomer, artist and mechanician that ever lived on the earth obtained his knowledge.” So when Bachman states that I exclude revelation when using the word “spiritual” here, it is one more case of him trying to portray me as an atheist, for reasons best known only to himself. He and I might disagree on how inspiration works (I think it is a very complex question), but there is no question of my rejecting God or inspiration given to men.
Here is a case where Bachman would have been well advised to use cautious probability language — it is manifestly unwise for a writer to make a dogmatic assertion regarding another writer’s supposed belief or disbelief. I think this is a case where I have a “moderate” view of revelation and inspiration, and Bachman reacts by flatly labeling me an atheist.
I now turn to the sources that in my view provide added context to the Lightner quotes. William Hall wrote that Smith taught that “all real marriages were made in heaven before the birth of the parties.” He connected this with the phrase “kindred spirits.” If Hall were not so closely paralleled by Lightner here, I would not cite him. But as corroborative evidence dovetailing with Lightner he is valuable. Then I show that the phrase “kindred spirits” is attested in “conservative” Mormon literature — first by William Smith in 1845, when he was Presiding Patriarch, then by Helen Mar Whitney in 1886 (see In Sacred Loneliness, 640).
Bachman would prefer to reject Hall completely. However, the two “conservative” references to “kindred spirits” are a problem for such a wholesale rejection. Therefore, in an interpretation seemingly out of nowhere, he ascribes the phrase found in a patriarchal blessing given by William Smith to the influence of John Bennett. This was a surprising interpretation for me, as I did not know of any connection between William Smith and Bennett at this time, July 16, 1845. I consulted the biography of Bennett by Andrew Smith, The Saintly Scoundrel: The Life and Times of Dr. John Cook Bennett, and the chapter on William Smith in Irene Bates and Gary Smith’s Lost Legacy: The Mormon Office of Presiding Patriarch.  I could find no connection between Smith and Bennett at this time documented in either of these places. Certainly William was a problematic leader, who was excommunicated later in the year. But when William gave the patriarchal blessing in question, he was a member in good standing, and was in fact a general authority, the presiding patriarch of the church. Bachman seems to be following the questionable policy of ascribing anything he is uncomfortable with to Bennett, even three years after Bennett had left Nauvoo.
Bachman does not mention or explain Helen Mar Whitney’s use of the phrase “kindred spirits.” This is a late reference (1886), but nevertheless, Helen Mar was a Nauvoo veteran, with a lifetime in the church, and had been a wife of Joseph Smith. It is extremely unlikely that Bennett could have influenced her. Her use of “kindred spirits” (explicitly used in reference to a pre-existent linking) strengthens the case for William Smith’s use of the term as normative at the time. And William Smith and Helen Mar together support William Hall and Elizabeth Rollins Lightner.
The idea that certain spirits were linked/sealed in the pre-existence, far from being a doctrine known only to anti-Mormons Bennett and Hall, almost became a commonplace in Mormon thought (as the Helen Mar Whitney reference shows). Arrington and Bitton discuss the doctrine in Mormon Experience. Once again, Bachman does not mention this reference, which I cited at In Sacred Loneliness, 640.
Arrington and Bitton cite another quite early sympathetic source, John Taylor, “The Origin and Destiny of Women,” in The Mormon 3 #28 (Aug. 29, 1857), second page, a very interesting passage which I did not treat in In Sacred Loneliness, but probably should have. I will discuss it briefly here:
An LDS woman asked John Taylor questions on her origin and destiny.
“Lady — whence comest thou? . . . “Knowest thou not that eternities ago, thy spirit, pure and holy, dwelt in thy Heavenly Father’s bosom, and in his presence, and with thy mother, one of the Queens of heaven, surrounded by thy brother and sister spir[i]ts in the spirit world, among the Gods. That as thy spirit beheld the scenes transpiring there, and thou growing in intelligence, thou sawest worlds upon worlds organized and peopled with thy kindred spirits, took upon them tabernacles, died, were resurrected, and received their exalt[at]ion on the redeemed worlds they once dwelt upon. Thou being willing and anxious to imitate them, waiting and desirous to obtain a body, a resurrection and exaltation also, and having obtained permission, thou made a covenant with one of thy kindred spirits to be thy guardian angel while in mortality, also with two others, male and female spirits, that thou wouldst come and take a tabernacle through their lineage, and become one of their offspring. You also choose [chose] a kindred spirit whom you loved in the spirit world, (and had permission to come to this planet and take a tabernacle,) to be your head, stay, husband, and protector on the earth, and to exalt you in the eternal worlds. All these were arranged, likewise the spirits that should tabernacle through your lineage. Thou longed, thou sighed, and thou prayed to thy Father in heaven for the time to arrive when thou couldst come to this earth, which had fled and fell from where it was first organized, near the planet Kolob. Leave thy father and mother’s bosoms, and all thy kindred spirits, come to earth, take a tabernacle, and imitate the deeds of those you had seen exalted before you.
At length the time arrived, and thou heard the voice of thy Father, saying, “go daughter to yonder lower world, and take upon thee a tabernacle . . . Daughter, go, and be faithful in your second estate, keep it as faithful as thou hast, thy first estate.[”]
Thy spirit filled with joy and thanksgiving rejoiced in thy Father . . . Thou bade father, mother, and all, farewell and along with thy guardian angel, thou came on this terraqueous globe. [(]The spirits thou had chosen to come and tabernacle through their lineage, and your Head having left the spirit world some years previous.) Thou came a spirit pure and holy, thou hast taken upon thee a tabernacle, thou hast obeyed the truth, and thy guardian angel ministers unto thee and watches over thee. Thou hast chosen him you loved in the spirit world to be thy companion. Now, crowns, thrones, exaltations and dominions are in reserve for thee in the eternal worlds . . . That when mortality is laid in the tomb, you may go down to your grave in peace, arise in glory, and receive your everlasting reward in the resurrection of the just, along with thy Head and husband. Thou will be permitted to pass by the Gods and angels who guard the gates, and onward, upward to thy exaltation in a celestial world among the Gods. To be a Priestess Queen unto thy Heavenly Father, and a glory to thy husband and offspring, to bear the souls of men, to people other worlds, (as thou didst bear their tabernacles in mortality,) while eternity goes and eternity comes . . .
This passage has many points that deserve comment, including a strong “guardian angel” teaching. In the section that is of most interest in the present context, the premortal spirit arranges exactly and precisely her most important relationships in the next life: guardian angel, parents, husband, children. These were formal arrangements: “thou made a covenant with”; “All these were arranged.”
In the passage about the husband — “You also choose [chose] a kindred spirit whom you loved in the spirit world, (and had permission to come to this planet and take a tabernacle,) to be your head, stay, husband, and protector on the earth, and to exalt you in the eternal worlds.” — the crucial phrase, “kindred spirit,” shows up prominently again, and is repeated over and over. We also have the emotional bond (“whom you loved”) in the pre-existence, as well as the formal, ritualized connection, arrangement, covenant. John Taylor, of course, was part of the inner polygamy circle in Nauvoo. 1857 is only thirteen years after Joseph Smith’s death.
Bachman writes that “it appears that the doctrine of ‘kindred spirits’ is Hall’s.” (p. 129.) This idea clearly must be rejected. In his haste to portray me as relying primarily on anti-Mormon sources, he did not follow the path of evidence in sympathetic sources.
Finally, Bachman considers the use of the terminology “spiritual wife” or “spiritual marriage” in relation to Nauvoo polygamy. This is an interesting discussion, including many valuable pieces of evidence, but it does not really support Bachman’s main argument. The logical thread is hard to follow, but it appears to be: Compton believes Joseph Smith had a concept of “spiritual wives.” He equates this with the non-Mormon “spiritual wife” doctrine as described in Dixon’s 1868 book Spiritual Wives. However, Bachman argues that Compton made a major miscalculation, because the “spiritual wife” doctrine in Nauvoo came from Bennett and Joseph Jackson. Bachman asserts that Compton has “taken the bait” of Bennett and Jackson — which implies that Compton is a something of a disciple of John C. Bennett. By association, this implies that Compton is something of an amoral atheist.
This argument is flawed from many angles. As far as how I feel about being characterized, however loosely, as a disciple of Bennett — obviously, this insinuation is so wildly extremist that it undercuts itself completely. In fact, I view Bennett negatively. However, he is a historical source that must be looked at, though with a great deal of caution.
This argument is also strange because Bennett, to my knowledge, never really tackled the issue of Mormon polyandry. The main things I used from him were his short list of wives and his account of Marinda Hyde’s involvement in the proposal of marriage to Nancy Rigdon, both of which are plentifully paralleled in sympathetic sources. I don’t know where in my book Bachman can point to my referring to Bennett in relation to polyandry. I do not remember making any major point relating to the term “spiritual wives” in relation to Mormon polyandry. I looked through my notes for the polyandry section of my prologue (639-41), but found no reference to Bennett. “Buckeye’s Lament,” which Bachman quoted in his thesis, does refer to “spiritual marriage” (In Sacred Loneliness, 22), but I did not comment on the term at all. William Hepworth Dixon’s book, Spiritual Wives, obviously refers to spiritual wives, but again, I do not comment on the term. (In Sacred Loneliness, 20-21.)
So Bachman’s theory that I took Bennett’s term “spiritual marriage” then used it to make the jump to wider, non-Mormon “spiritual marriage” is flatly wrong. First of all, I never even mentioned Bennett’s use of the term “spiritual marriage.” It is unfortunate that Bachman made such a vehement critique here with so little evidence for his case.
Bachman asserts that I also took the “bait” of anti-Mormon Joseph Jackson with regard to the term “spiritual wife.” He quotes a very interesting passage from Jackson in this connection. (p. 131.) However, I did not even consider this quote in my book, to the best of my recollection. In fact, on page 634, I refer to Jackson as “perhaps the worst of the sensationalists” not exactly the glowing adulation of a disciple who has taken Jackson’s “bait.” If I did not even quote Jackson in this connection, it is absurd to portray me as his disciple.
To sum up, I did not make any argument based on the term “spiritual wife” in my prologue; that term is entirely incidental to my argument. So any statement that I took the “bait” of Bennett and Jackson is unfortunate, to say the least.
However, Bachman is also wrong on another important point. There is good evidence that mainstream Mormons in Nauvoo did use the term “spiritual wife” to refer to polygamy. Helen Mar Whitney, who certainly knew Nauvoo polygamy first-hand, wrote, “At the time [in Nauvoo] spiritual wife was the title by which every woman who entered into this order was called, for it was taught and practiced as a spiritual order.” (Quoted in In Sacred Loneliness, 632.) Helen Mar here makes a very general statement (“every woman”) and provides a rationale for the term. Emily Partridge Young referred to a “spiritual child.” In 1855, Heber C. Kimball referred to the “spiritual wife doctrine the Patriarchal Order, which is of God.” On June 12, 1844, Joseph Fielding (the brother of Mary Fielding, who married Hyrum Smith and was the mother of Joseph Fielding Smith) wrote in his journal: “I often preach to my Wife and endeavor to inspire her with Faith her Mind has been troubled at some things in the Church the Subject of Spiritual Wives[n. 49] so much talked [about] at this time.” The modern editor of the journal, Andrew Ehat, in his note 49, writes, “Here Joseph Fielding speaks of the term ‘Spiritual Wives’ in a positive sense as used in Times and Seasons 5 (15 November 1844): 715, rather than in the usual negative sense.”
Thus, in the opinion of conservative scholar, Andrew Ehat, orthodox Mormons used the term “Spiritual Wives” positively at times, negatively at times. It was not simply a term used by John C. Bennett. Fielding is writing long after Bennett left Nauvoo, and while Joseph Smith was alive. Further, two of Fielding’s sisters had married Hyrum Smith, so he certainly knew about polygamy.
So even on this issue, Mormon polygamy was not a world apart from the “spiritual wife” movement in America, as Anderson and Faulring and Bachman tend to portray it.
Finally, other respected historians of polygamy have also followed my argument on the linking of pre-existence and Joseph Smith’s marriages to married women. For instance, Andrew Ehat wrote in his talk, “Pseudo-Polyandry: Explaining Mormon Polygyny’s Paradoxical Companion,” that one of the purposes of Joseph Smith’s polygamy was “to establish on earth marriage covenants which were entered into by men and women before they were born.” Bachman, strangely enough, vehemently attacks this section of my prologue when conservative scholars have made the same argument and drawn the same conclusion.
One of Bachman’s odd criticisms of In Sacred Loneliness is that I intentionally made these women’s lives more tragic than they really were, that I edited anything positive out of their lives. E.g., p. 116: “Although I am not in a position to contradict the thesis because I have not researched the lives of these women, I nonetheless have the impression that the harsh and painful side of their lives was intentionally emphasized.” Again, on p. 137: “His nearly exclusive emphasis on the harsh and difficult lives he portrays raises the question as to whether he has allowed his bias to filter out contrary positive evidence.”
Obviously, I did not do this. I suppose you could say that I did highlight dramatic moments, as all biographers do, and that dramatic moments often result from conflict and tragedy. Another factor is that these women’s lives were often very difficult because they lost more children than women do today. Another factor was their health care level, which was so primitive, compared to ours. Another factor was the persecution history of Mormons before they came to Utah. Another factor was the pioneering life itself. Polygamy was another significant factor, and since the book is about polygamy, I look carefully at evidence relating to polygamy.
Nevertheless, Bachman’s suggestion that I have edited out anything positive in my book leaves me perplexed. There is an enormous amount of “positive” material in my book. A quick, random culling of my subheadings, which summarize the following sections, will show this. I did not avoid striking “tragic” phrases in selecting subheadings, but I was very open to positive phrases. Many headings were simply neutral (“Salt Lake City”); (“Heber C. Kimball”).
Some examples of positive headings:
“The Lord Heard Her Supplication,” referring to a spiritual experience connected with polygamy. From the same chapter, Louisa Beaman: “O How Precious Is a Sisters Kindness.”
“But They Were Not Alone,” referring to a spiritual experience recorded by Elvira Cowles. “Kind Wife and Affectionate Mother.”
“Never So Happy” “I Drank of the Pure Water” from the Rhoda Richards chapter.
If I was slanted toward extreme negativity, would I have included a heading like this: “My Faith Encreased in This Church”? (Desdemona Fullmer chapter)
“Heaven and Angels Not Very Far Off” (Helen Mar Kimball refers to her mother singing).
“It Is a Grand School,” in a section in which I quote positive things Lucy Walker said about polygamy.
Here’s one heading that shows I had a biographer’s eye for the dramatic: “Shootout on the Colorado.”
Two headings from Emily Partridge reflect Missouri experiences: “All Seemed So Strange,” and “Stars as Thick as Snowflakes.” The latter poetic phrase reflects a spiritual experience Emily had in the midst of persecutions.
“She Donated Every Dollar She Earned,” refers to Ruth Vose’s donation of money to the Kirtland Temple.
“She Saw Her Body as It Lay,” refers to a spiritual experience that Martha McBride had.
In the Sarah Ann Whitney chapter, here are two headings: “Cloud of Glory,” and “A Halo of Light Encircled Us,” referring to spiritual experiences the Whitney family had. Between them, “Just Barely Able to Crawl Around,” refers to a period of sickness in Nauvoo.
Here is a touch of humor: “Lost in Central Utah.” Notice how positive this whole page, referring to Eliza R. Snow’s administration as Relief Society President, is. (p. 336) Also in Eliza’s chapter: “The Glory of God on the Prairie.” The whole Eliza chapter is quite free from tragedy, yet I give her life a substantial treatment. Of course, the life and writings of Eliza Snow, one of the least tragic and problematic wives, was the catalyst for my book.
The last heading in my book, “Let the First Thing You Say Be ‘Hallelujah!’“ refers to a positive, non-naturalistic view of death.
Once again, I am not saying that all my headings were bright and cheery. But there is a balance. Bachman’s implication that I have malevolently edited out all positive material in these lives is incorrect. Bachman is clearly uncomfortable with the tragedy in these lives (as if all Mormons’ lives should be saccharine sweet, untouched by shadows or serious problems), but I believe that often these women’s spirituality was shown most powerfully when they were facing experiences that they found incomprehensibly painful. Bachman’s hinting that a good Latter-day Saint historian should edit out the tragic from a woman’s own record would produce a sentimental, even dishonest, kind of history. It even seems to brand these woman as somehow to blame for their tragic lives, and is deeply unsympathetic to what these women endured.
There were some women whose lives seemed on the balance more tragic than positive. I think of Louisa Beaman, the Partridge sisters, Helen Mar Kimball. Nevertheless, no life is entirely tragic, just as no life is entirely rosy, so fair-minded readers will find “positive” elements in these chapters, just as I found positive elements in the documents that allowed me to reconstruct their lives. For Helen Mar, I think of how happy she was after her marriage to Horace Whitney, when they were crossing Iowa, In Sacred Loneliness, 506, especially the end of the quote at the top of the page. Earlier, I discussed her idyllic childhood and how intensely she loved her parents (487-90). By the way, some see Heber unsympathetically, and he certainly was not a perfect human being, but this part of the chapter shows my respect for Heber, his humor, his love for his children. Stanley Kimball says that much that we love in J. Golden Kimball — his humor, his earthiness — came from his father.
Later in Helen Mar’s life, many of her children died, including one son by apparent suicide. Naturally, these were intense, traumatic experiences for Helen, and a biographer would be irresponsible if he or she did not reflect them adequately. Nevertheless, I also reflected how proud she was of her children in her later life, and their real successes. See my account of Orson’s development into a young man (In Sacred Loneliness, 519). One of many happy social gatherings I describe in my pages is the “surprise” on Helen (p. 525). Another paragraph on p. 532, first full paragraph, describes positive achievements of her children. Though the paragraph also reflects problems the children were dealing with, the positive elements are certainly there.
Other women did not have such overwhelmingly tragic lives as the Partridges and Helen Mar. I think of Elvira Cowles Holmes, for instance. And incidentally, I went out of my way in that chapter to portray the positive experience in polygamy that her three daughters had. I could have very easily left their stories out of my Elvira chapter, especially after Elvira died.
Bachman, and to a lesser extent, Anderson and Faulring, accuse me of being so speculative in my writing that my book has speculation and little else. Bachman repeats a sarcastic comment by a BYU friend that if the “probability and possibility” words probably, perhaps, may have, might have, must have, undoubtedly, apparent and apparently, seems likely, were taken out of my book, it would be a pamphlet. (p. 108.)
However, he does assert that some speculation language (using the kinds of words his BYU colleague has criticized) can be a valid part of historical writing. So the argument is not simply that I am speculative, but that I am speculative too much. After reading Bachman’s treatment here, a friend who had read my book told me that Bachman left the impression that there was no evidence or authentic historical research reflected in my book, but that it was entirely wild speculation and invention.
But if Bachman asserts that some speculation is acceptable, even needed, and that too much speculation is the sign of shoddy history, he does not give us any guidance on exactly how much speculation is allowable, or desirable. How do you define how much “probability language” is acceptable? Bachman gives us no help here. Having labeled my book as based on speculation rather than evidence, he has accomplished his purpose, and moves on.
To consider the question of how much “speculative” language is acceptable, I turned to a biography I happened to be reading recently after a visit to Mount Vernon, John E. Ferling, The First of Men: A Life of George Washington, regarded by many as the leading biography of Washington, and I made a cursory search for “speculative” language. I bold these examples of “speculative” or obviously “interpretive” language for convenience:
“Washington seemed even less eager to spend time with his mother than he was to attend church. A domineering woman, she must have nagged at her son when they were together.” [Later in the same paragraph:] “He apparently did not invite her to stay at Mount Vernon.” (p. 76)
So we might ask whether this is a bad paragraph because it has an abundance of speculative words in it. Or was the clustering of “probability” language appropriate for the particular subject addressed?
In another sequence of paragraphs, Ferling writes: “Washington had never met the venerated Franklin. They apparently got on well enough, but the old sage, not unlike Washington, was surprisingly reserved, and the two men must have found their attempts at light conversation to be awkward. The commander had only a passing acquaintance with Lynch, having met him when they both served in Congress. But he must have been delighted at the sight of Harrison, not only a friend, but a Virginian who had just returned from a vacation in that province.” (pp. 133-34)
In the next paragraph: “General Washington must have blanched at the first directive. [Pay of officers must be reduced, according to a congressional committee.] Whatever his feelings about the wisdom of an attack, the notion of civilians four hundred miles removed from Boston dictating strategy to the army had to be galling.” Then there is a very colored, interpretive word at the end of this same paragraph: “Their bluff called, the congressmen backed off, and during the final five days of the conference they obsequiously accepted almost every urgent request made by General Washington.” Compare the word “domineering,” a judgment word, used previously. Again we must ask, are these passages overrun with speculation evidence that Ferling is a bad scholar?
Bachman himself frequently uses “probability language.” On p. 133 (again, I bold for convenience): “He [Compton] too may have been persuaded by doctrines such as those of kindred spirits, free love, and spiritual wifery. In 1845 William was probably theologically closer to John C. Bennett than Joseph Smith in his thinking and acting in relationship to plural marriage.” And again, on p. 127, Bachman writes, “Apparently he believes that the four sources cited establish the relationship.” Again on p. 131, “It appears that Compton has taken the bait.” On p. 129, “It appears that the doctrine of ‘kindred spirits’ is Hall’s.” We can ask again whether these are bad paragraphs due to the clustering of probability language.
My answer to the above questions, of course, is that Bachman and Ferling are not bad scholars because they used probability language, and those are not bad paragraphs, merely because they contain probability language.
Here is how I view this issue. Many non-historians have the point of view that a historian merely “reproduces the facts.” This is a basic misapprehension about history. Even a historian’s reproduction of facts reveals his or her point of view, as he or she selects which facts, out of an infinite number of facts, he or she will refer to or quote. What every historian does is select and present evidence, much of which is fairly undisputed (though, as I mentioned above, no evidence is perfect), then he or she draws interpretive conclusions from the evidence. All historians do this. It is the essence of their job. They are not merely reprinting phone books or statistical facts. All historians have a point of view, opinions, predisposition (though, as in my case, their exposure to evidence will cause them to develop and revise opinions). So Bachman, Anderson and Faulring’s branding me as “speculative” is odd; they are in essence saying, if you do not have exactly their biases, you are “biased.” Bachman critiques me for having “opinion” (p. 136) — as if he does not have strong opinions himself. Good historians’ opinions are certainly guided by factual evidence, and they make an honest effort to not let their biases shape their view of evidence, but opinion and individual perspective are always there. Probability language is closely aligned with interpretive history.
However, I certainly agree that the speculative, interpretive aspect of history can fall short of absolute truth. (No historian, of course, achieves absolute truth.) Interpretation in history can go astray in a number of ways.
First, an author may make an argument, write an article or book without sufficient research. If there are six relevant pieces of evidence, and the author uses only two of them, his or her argument may well be flawed. I don’t think that Anderson and Faulring and Bachman believe this of me — in fact they almost criticize me for using too many sources.
Second, an author may adduce the facts adequately, then make an incorrect construction from them. This can be done innocently. An author collects three facts, then makes a judgment on what probably happened. However, three more facts may arise that put a different light on the circumstances, and the historian may either change his mind completely, or at least continue his previous reconstruction of the past with modifications. Sometimes a historian’s extreme, irrational bias can produce consistent illogical jumps that do violence to the evidence. Arguments of white supremacists, arguing that Jesus was not a Jew for instance, present good examples of this.
My main point here is that all history is interpretive and speculative, though the best history works from evidence collected and adduced as skillfully and honestly as possible. Any attempt to portray my book as speculation only, not based on authentic evidence (Bachman refers to my writing as “pure fantasy” at one point, p. 133, as if I were not using evidence at all), is obviously ludicrous. I constantly refer to primary evidence, diaries, autobiographies, letters, early church periodicals, newspaper accounts, genealogical information. These are quoted virtually everywhere in my book, but the concentrated, technical references to sources are in 623-771, about a hundred and fifty pages of bibliographical references and citations. I have always done everything possible to find the most primary evidence on a subject, then to weigh pieces of evidence judiciously, trying to work in the highly charged emotional battleground of religious history. As early as my Fawn Brodie article, I was concerned with the challenge of interpreting evidence in Mormon history, and critiqued Brodie for relying too much on secondhand, printed, anti-Mormon sources.
So any responsible, real history will have a great deal of interpretation, which by definition deals with speculation and probability, though it will be based on evidence.
Is there such a thing as too much speculation? For instance, do the paragraphs by Ferling above have too much speculation packed into a small space? I don’t know. In my view, you can have too much speculation based on too few facts (or on no facts). But note that Ferling is not simply spinning a tale; he is arguing for a certain historical reconstruction from facts, which admittedly he has marshaled in a certain pattern. He is not arguing from a vacuum. He allows the reader to see the facts he uses, then he clearly separates those facts from his conclusions (using “probability language”), but shows that the conclusions come from the facts.
This is an exciting part of history. You look at the facts, and they lead you to reconstruct a picture beyond what is strictly in the lone pieces of evidence taken one by one. This is not irresponsible history. This is what history does. If a historian becomes immersed in the diaries and autobiographies of the battle of Gettysburg survivors, supported by a careful mapping of the Gettysburg site, along with archaeological findings, he can come to see a vision of the battle. And the overall vision goes far beyond what is found in any one journal or any one bullet found in a hill.
Note also that, for readers or historians who have an extremely rosy view of Washington, they might not be comfortable with Ferling portraying him treating his mother distantly. So they might accuse Ferling of biased, negative, speculation. Thus we may ask if Ferling was attacking Washington vindictively, or whether he felt that the evidence authentically pointed to a problematic relationship between Washington and his mother, and Ferling felt he should discuss it, because it was there. (And because mother-son relationships are significant.) Was he intent on debunking, or was he merely giving a balanced portrayal of Washington as an individual who at times had problematic relationships? (And most or all humans have some problematic relationships.) It is possible that we have a case where Ferling felt a personal dislike for Washington, so overemphasized innocent facts to create an unfairly negative picture. But it is also possible that Washington has been intensely idealized as the first American president, and when actual, normal human problems appear in his life, in the historical record, the historian may responsibly reflect them without vindictiveness.
Another distinguished book of history, Laurel Thatcher Ulrich’s Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Midwife’s Tale, is worth considering as we discuss “speculation” in history. In this book, the main document is a diary of midwife Martha Ballard. Ulrich quotes it day by day, then stops and makes long, imaginative reconstructions of what happened on those days. Certainly, Ulrich makes educated guesses, based on voluminous research. But everything in this wonderful book, outside of the diaries themselves, is reconstruction, speculation — possible or probable reconstructions, in fact extremely sophisticated, brilliant reconstructions, but going well beyond the flat record found in the diary. So should responsible critics point out that there too much “speculation” in Ulrich’s book? Is it fatally flawed because it is “filled with speculation”? Or should she have merely printed the diary itself and avoided injecting her personal reconstruction and judgment? Here, certainly, you could say that without speculative reconstruction, the book would be a pamphlet.
My view is that what we should be concerned with is not whether historians use interpretive “probability language,” but whether they are consistently illogical in their conclusions and are making wild, irrational fantastic jumps in their possible and probable reconstructions.
Let’s look at Ferling’s “probability language” again: “Washington seemed even less eager to spend time with his mother than he was to attend church. A domineering woman, she must have nagged at her son when they were together.” Later in the same paragraph: “He apparently did not invite her to stay at Mount Vernon.”
Now I will take that “probability language” out: “Washington was even less eager to spend time with his mother than he was to attend church. A domineering woman, she  nagged at her son when they were together . . . He  did not invite her to stay at Mount Vernon.”
How do we feel about the second paragraph as opposed to the first paragraph? The tone of the second paragraph is dogmatic. It seems to assert that the author is using certain evidence. It does not complicate the picture with “probability language.” In contrast, the tone of the first paragraph is cautious. It asserts that the author is working from evidence, then making an educated reconstruction of what the evidence points to. Using the “probability language” actually shows the author’s honesty — here is my evidence, he or she says, and now here is my argument from the evidence. Probability language is a safeguard for intelligent readers. It allows them to quickly assess the evidence and make a judgment. (If they want to pursue the matter further, they can go to the original documents and check context for themselves.)
So, at the risk of seeing myself too sympathetically, I propose that my “probability language” actually reflects my caution and conservatism. I believe this is where Brodie sometimes got into trouble, when she expressed her interpretations dogmatically, as if they were absolute truth, instead of cautiously. (Her friend Dale Morgan criticized her for this.) Certainly, some of my reconstructions may be modified by future research, or even rejected, eventually. But to portray me as a bad historian because I use interpretive language “too much” I think shows a basic misunderstanding of what a historian’s task is.
At the risk of beating this issue into the ground, I will briefly look at two of my uses of “probability language.” When Fanny Young Murray died, I write, “No doubt her passing was mourned by Brigham . . .” I also argue that Fanny’s sister wives and close friends attended her funeral, and were present when she was buried. I had no direct evidence, but it seemed reasonable and probable that such was the case. Brigham Young was her brother. Fanny had lived in the Lion House with these women. This is not bizarre speculation; it is common sense.
When Vilate Kimball died, I write that Helen Mar “undoubtedly tended her as she gradually lost her faculties.” (In Sacred Loneliness, 514.) Now, I did not have a shred of evidence documenting Helen at her mother’s bedside. Yet I felt that it was extremely probable that an only daughter who dearly loved her mother, and who lived a half a block away from her, would take time tending her mother as she approached death. I enjoyed visualizing that very probable scene.
Is there really anything sinister or wildly speculative about such an interpretation as this?
Incidentally, a syntactical technique that Bachman uses repeatedly that is an extreme form of probability language is the rhetorical question — for instance, “Did his presuppositions shape the study as he sought evidence to validate them?” (p. 118.) Such a rhetorical question shouts “Yes” as an answer with every word. It is ironic that Bachman would criticize my cautious use of probability language, then repeatedly use the rhetorical question as a form of speculative innuendo — the statement just quoted is based on no facts whatsoever. Bachman did not know me before I began researching my book; he knew me at no time during the writing of the book; he met me briefly after the book was published. Furthermore, as I have mentioned, I had no strong preconceptions about polygamy before I began researching my book.
Another critique of Bachman, and Anderson and Faulring, that is odd is their charge that I take evidence from “disparate” sources. (See Bachman at 121, “patchwork,” 135, “disparate authorities scattered over decades”; Anderson and Faulring at 69). It is a standard in the practice of history that any kind of evidence relating to a phenomenon can be considered, and in fact, should be considered. For instance, if I have an autobiography of a woman, and she gives her birth date, but tells us little about her family, it is extremely useful to find primary genealogical records for her. First, it can confirm her memory of her birth date (sometimes, surprisingly, people remember their birth date incorrectly); second, it can give added information on her family situation when growing up — whether her parents were middle-aged or young when she was born, whether she was the oldest child in a large family, the baby in a large family, or whether she was an only child. The fact that I have combined two disparate sources strengthens my portrayal of this woman. What if I refer to a newspaper story that mentions my subject, and combine that with what she wrote in a diary on the same day? This will again strengthen my case, give more depth to the story. The more pieces of evidence that deal with an event, the better off the historian is. It does not matter in the least if they come from disparate sources. In fact, disparate sources increase the validity of the case.
Anderson and Faulring criticize me for using sources that are contradictory (p. 69, “gross contradictions”). However, once again, I find this criticism hard to understand. This is the common lot of all history. Find two sources and chances are they will disagree on something. If disparate sources contradict each other, this is still extremely valuable, because it leads us to try to examine and resolve the contradiction. (Which can sometimes be done.) The idea that one should simplify by using only one of those sources is not tenable in any way. (Unless some other factor leads us to believe that one of the sources is completely wrong. Even then it is valuable to try to understand how this warping came about, what forces created it.)
On pp. 109-110 Bachman takes a whole page to attack my reporting of George Harris’s role in the destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor. He accuses me of suggesting that the council made a “rash,” quick, decision, when in actuality, Joseph Smith met with the City Council for seven hours and thirty minutes.
This is one of many examples of Anderson, Faulring and Bachman attacking very minor, ancillary points in my book. And in fact, I was not writing an extensive treatment of the Expositor incident. I simply made a point in passing that Harris, a “first husband,” was solidly on Joseph Smith’s side during this crisis. The length of the meeting was not much of an issue to me. But after reading Bachman I checked to see if I had implied that the process was hasty and quick. I wrote (I add emphasis): “After a great deal of testimony relating to the alleged wrongdoings of the Expositor staff, ‘Alderman Harris spoke from the chair, and expressed his feelings that the press ou[gh]t to be demolished.’ The council quickly agreed, passing a resolution . . .” (In Sacred Loneliness, 51) So I did not suggest that the proceedings were abbreviated — there was “a great deal of testimony” in the session before Harris spoke.
And as to my main point, there is no doubt that Joseph Smith wanted the Expositor suppressed, and that George Harris was on his side. This is not a difficult point. One is left wondering why Bachman would think it was worthwhile making an issue about this.
A few of the relatives of the women I write about were reputed to be Danites. I do not emphasize this; it is not central to the theme of my book (obviously, none of the women I write about were Danites). However, Anderson and Faulring imply that I have gone out of my way to find Danites of the most bloodthirsty sort under every bush. (pp. 93-94.)
On first reading their review, I was puzzled by this charge and once again wondered what I actually wrote about Danites. I found that the following men were mentioned as Danites in In Sacred Loneliness, and usually only in passing: George Washington Harris, Vinson Knight, Cornelius Lott, Oliver and Dimick Huntington, and Stephen Winchester. Danitism was simply part of Mormonism in Missouri; it would be irresponsible to ignore the phenomenon there. The importance of Danitism in such an important event as the election as Gallatin shows this.
Furthermore, when I wrote In Sacred Loneliness, I did not intend to write a book solving all problems in Mormon history, so I did not read all the primary and secondary literature related to Danites as I wrote the book. Over the years I’ve read some of the literature on Danites, merely out of interest, but the issue was very, very peripheral for my book. One striking account of Danitism that I ran across by accident was Oliver Huntington in his diaries. (See In Sacred Loneliness, 658.) But I merely wrote, “Both Dimick and Oliver Huntington served as Danites, and Dimick distinguished himself as a captain of the Danite guard.” This is hardly an extreme emphasis on the subject. It was not a major issue for the life of Zina Huntington.
Anderson and Faulring, after accusing me of misinterpretation of history by overestimating the Danite membership, assert that there are two possible methods of Danite interpretation. One is that the Danites were a limited, oath-bound group. The other is that most loyal Mormon men were involved with Danites “at the close of Missouri hostilities.” Anderson and Faulring assert that both these are valid, so I would be justified if I were accepting this second interpretation. However, they affirm that I take the “oath-bound” theory, then try to apply it to most Mormon men.
Again, when I read this, I was very puzzled, as I did not know that I had accepted the “oath-bound” theory. I read through the few passages in my book mentioning Danitism in Missouri to find out how I could have given this impression. I could find no references to “oath- bound” Danites. It was as if Anderson and Faulring were critiquing me for the mistake they wish I had made.
The reviewers critique my reference to Vinson Knight as associating with Danites. Strangely enough, in an earlier draft of this chapter, a descendant of Martha had objected to my referring to Vinson as a Danite. I looked at the primary source document, and it definitely said that he accepted plunder from Danites while Bishop. So, to please this descendant, instead of writing that Vinson was a Danite, I wrote that he associated with Danites. To me, that close association shows that he was connected with them somehow, but just to be cautious I did not say he was a Danite himself. Anderson and Faulring, apparently anxious to saddle me with a pan-Danite bias, did not pick up on this distinction.
Finally, when I first referred to Danites in my bibliographical notes, I did not take an immoderate hard-line “radical” approach, as Anderson and Faulring would imply. I simply guided the reader to a few “conservative” (Whittaker, Gentry) and “liberal” (Hill, Quinn) sources to show there has been a spectrum of interpretation. But the first source I listed was a conservative source. See In Sacred Loneliness, 651.
Occasionally in In Sacred Loneliness I mention that the central High Council had much more authority in the early church than in the church today, and the apostles had less central authority. The apostles were important leaders, certainly, but in their early years they presided in the mission field. Even in early Utah, many apostles were sent away from Salt Lake City to live in and preside over mission field areas. Joseph Smith, on May 2, 1835, said that the Twelve “will have no right to go into Zion, or any of its stakes, and there undertake to regulate the affairs thereof, where there is a standing high council; but it is their duty to go abroad...” HC 2.220. Later during Joseph’s lifetime, and in Utah, the Council of the Twelve came to have more central authority.
Again, this is not a major theme in my book. I refer to it occasionally in passing. It is significant for women who were married to or related to High Councillors, as it shows that their status was higher than a modern Mormon without historical background would immediately understand.
Anderson and Faulring take three pages, 94-96, to discuss my few references. They make two points that I think are valid and interesting, and have caused me to revise my thinking on specific details. However, they also make one slight misrepresentation of my book, and misleadingly cite an incomplete quotation that can be better understood in its entirety.
First, I accept their critique of my statement on In Sacred Loneliness, 254. The relative status of High Council and Apostles was probably not a factor here. The main point of the paragraph is not changed, though. All of these women except Elizabeth Durfee were married to high church leaders as first wives.
Anderson and Faulring’s second valid point relates to the fact that on November 30, 1844 apostles John Taylor and Orson Hyde were present and very influential at a meeting of the Nauvoo High Council. On In Sacred Loneliness, 539-40, I stated that Hyde clearly dominated the council, though he had no formal authority to sit there, as the apostles had no authority in any stake high council. In the sense that Hyde acted as an apostle, I was correct; but Anderson and Faulring note that technically the Twelve became the First Presidency after August 8, 1844. They are also correct that the First Presidency presided over the (standing) High Council, and often had participated in High Council meetings. Therefore I accept their position here, that Hyde and Taylor had formal authority to attend as members of the First Presidency. Even accepting this point, it once again shows how the relative positions of Standing High Council and Traveling High Council (the Twelve) had changed as a result of that August 8, 1844 meeting. My summary of the event still stands, I think: “The apostles were on the ascendant in the church, and the high council, even of the central stake, would gradually become less important.”
The slight misrepresentation is in relation to that quote. Anderson and Faulring sum up their section on Apostles and High Council by stating, “The executive and financial direction of the Twelve was vigorous immediately after church approval in early August 1844 [which I entirely agree with] and by no means developed gradually, as claimed in the above comments.” However, as the reader may easily see, I stated that the high council decreased gradually; I did not use the term “gradually” to refer to the Twelve. Nevertheless, I think that the Twelve’s centralized power certainly increased by increments from 1835 to 1844. I am not asserting that this was wrong, or that Joseph Smith did not support it. I simply think that it is an aspect of church history that we need to understand.
Anderson and Faulring quote Joseph Smith in 1841 to the effect that the Twelve should have authority in stakes. However, they abbreviate the quote significantly: “The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency and attend to . . . the business of the Church at the stakes.” D. Michael Quinn agrees with Anderson and Faulring that at this point the Twelve were given some authority in the stakes, which was a significant change. However, the full quote preserves an important limitation: “The time had come when the Twelve should be called upon to stand in their place next to the First Presidency, and attend to the settling of emigrants and the business of the Church at the stakes and assist to bear off the kingdom victoriously to the nations . . .” (Emphasis mine.) Here Joseph Smith does not give the apostles authority to become a “standing” high council, but instead to do some limited work within the stakes. The first thing Joseph mentions, and the phrase that Anderson and Faulring left out, was “the settling of emigrants,” a matter that is logically connected with missionary work. Anderson and Faulring probably would have been better served to reproduce the full quotation here. In addition, the purpose of the meeting was limited to local business related to missionary work: “to select men of experience to send forth into the vineyard, take measures to assist emigrants who may arrive at the places of gathering, and prevent impositions being practiced upon them by unprincipled speculators.” Brigham Young, the president of the conference and first speaker, stated that “nothing could be further from his wishes, and those of his quorum, than to interfere with Church affairs in Zion and her stakes.” This is clearly far from the centralized modern Mormon apostles who in fact travel to the stakes to select stake presidents. Brigham continued, “He had been in the vineyard so long, he had become attached to foreign missions . . .” Nevertheless, I agree that this passage shows a step toward the Twelve’s eventual centralized role.
This is an interesting subject; once again, I did not make a systematic study of this issue, but mentioned what there was to know about it (to be best of my knowledge) in passing. Using the full text of the Temple Lot transcript, Anderson and Faulring (at p. 87, cf. In Sacred Loneliness 598) argue that Melissa did not really remember the text of the plural marriage ceremony. When she stated that it was the standard Mormon wording as published in the Kirtland Doctrine and Covenants, in the view of Anderson and Faulring, she was badgered by the RLDS attorney into agreeing that the Kirtland D&C wording was used. In reality, Anderson and Faulring suggest, all she really remembered was that the marriage was for time and eternity.
This may be some truth to this, and Anderson and Faulring are correct in taking into account the dynamics of Melissa’s full testimony. They are making a valuable point here. Though Melissa said, “That is as I understand it as nearly as I can remember,” after the RLDS Kelley read the D&C marriage ceremony, at other times she seems to flatly deny that those words were used! But while my treatment did not reflect adequately the contradictory nature of her testimony, and I am grateful to Anderson and Faulring for alerting me to the complexities, Anderson and Faulring also oversimplify the issue. Melissa’s testimony is all over the map. On the statement that Anderson and Faulring take as certain — that the marriage was for time and eternity — Melissa also seems somewhat contradictory. “Q. Well what ceremony was used on that occasion? A;-It was that I was married to him for time and all eternity.” (line 56.) So far so good. In line 119, she says with certainty, “Yes sir. For time and eternity Q:-Was that in the ceremony? A;-Yes sir.” Then line 122, “Well was that [time and eternity] in the ceremony, - that is the question? A;-Yes sir it was.” Again, certainty. But then suddenly she is not sure: “Well now I couldn’t say that it was . . .” Then she continues with less than certainty: “but I think it was”.
Melissa is equally ambiguous about the D&C marriage wording. You could collect statements in favor of her remembering some form of the D&C wording, and array them against statements against the use of the D&C wording. After re-reading Melissa’s full testimony on this issue, my feeling is that it may reflect that she remembered that some form of the D&C wording was used, though as she reasonably states, she did not make a transcript as the ceremony was taking place, and so could not testify as to the exact words used, especially after so many years. But since the D&C marriage ceremony would have been very familiar to her, she might have recognized it in some form. But she also remembered a time and eternity component to the ceremony.
This interpretation would be consistent with the parallels with the D&C marriage wording and the Sarah Ann Whitney plural marriage ceremony. This brings us to an important portion of my argument that Anderson and Faulring strangely simply ignore. I wrote, “Similarities to the Sarah Whitney vows make this version appear reliable.” (In Sacred Loneliness, 598.) In fact, the structure of the Kirtland D&C marriage language is found in the Sarah Whitney vows. So even in this small passing reference, despite their very worthwhile reference to the full Temple Lot testimony of Melissa Willes, Anderson and Faulring do not come to grips with my argument and evidence.
Anderson and Faulring assert that I hold naturalistic positions. (p. 92) This pronouncement is highlighted and publicized by a bolded section heading. Bachman also states categorically that I hold naturalistic positions — this characterization is found in his concluding paragraphs, which again highlights and publicizes the assertion. (pp. 136-37.) When I first read these statements, I was very puzzled, as I would never associate myself with that term “naturalism” as I understood it (meaning a rejection of God; an antonym for supernaturalism). I wondered if I was interpreting it incorrectly, so I looked it up in a standard dictionary, Webster’s II New College Dictionary (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995): “naturalism. . . 2. Philos. The system of thought holding that all phenomena can be explained in terms of natural causes and laws without attributing supernatural significance to them. 3. The doctrine that all religious truths are derived from nature and natural causes and not from revelation.” Note: “all phenomena,” “all religious truths,” and the total rejection of the supernatural and revelation. The essence of naturalism is complete disbelief in God, or in any kind of supernatural phenomena. Naturalism and supernaturalism (including theism of any sort) are opposites. So in a strict sense, there is no such thing as a mixture of naturalism and belief in God. Someone who holds naturalistic positions is a complete atheist — not even an agnostic of some sort.
Anderson, Faulring and Bachman had clear evidence before them that I was not an atheist (they quote my statement of belief in God and the supernatural, In Sacred Loneliness, 629, on pp. 70 and 108), so it is not easy to understand why they made this assertion, and emphasized it so strongly. Strangely enough, both reviews mention my statement of belief only in order to comment negatively on it. Anderson and Faulring state that I “apply” it to a “campaign” against polygamy. Though their logic is not entirely clear to me, the strange idea is that I would “use” a testimony for negative purposes. Bachman refers to my statement of belief sarcastically, then angrily objects to it in a footnote in which he misquotes it. It is as if a person delivered his testimony in a Fast and Testimony Meeting, and the next two speakers quickly rose to tear it down.
The irony of my statement on p. 629 is that I felt, in all honesty, that non-Mormon, secular readers had the right to know my religious biases, my acceptance of the supernatural. I did not expect that fellow Mormons would have quoted the statement as evidence against by belief.
There has been a controversy in Mormon history on the subject of “naturalism” — some critics of the “New Mormon history” have asserted that such history is in essence dependent on naturalistic (atheist) underpinnings, and written by persons who may be perfunctory members of the church, but who are in reality writing from an essentially naturalistic, positivist (atheist) perspective borrowed from non-Mormon historical influences.
“New” Mormon historians typically combine a belief in God with interest in subjects considered secular. For instance, Leonard Arrington’s Great Basin Kingdom looks at Mormon history from an economic perspective. Critics of the New Mormon History might argue that this is a naturalistic approach; Arrington himself would see his faith in God and his interest in economics as complementary. For him, God and economics were not competing explanations for Mormon history. The fact that an economic analysis answered many questions about Mormon history does not deny the supernatural, or that divine law might be found in economic forces.
Actually, there is in Mormonism a strong tradition that everything is part of the gospel. We remember Brigham Young’s admonition to Karl Maeser to teach the multiplication tables by the spirit of God. Economics are an important theme in the New Testament, the Book of Mormon and the Doctrine and Covenants. We remember Brigham Young’s admonitions to study all disciplines, history, politics, science. Alexander addresses this issue: “[I]n the most profound sense, the New Mormon Historians recognize no sacred-secular dichotomy and thus they melt the barrier between the two categories. . . . In short, the New Mormon History has not produced secular or naturalistic historical narratives in the usual meaning of those terms. Still, these narratives [history written by New Mormon Historians] — grounded in the humane tradition and the human studies — interpret both religious and temporal experiences, and address questions raised by people in our time and culture.”
Since the publication of his review of my book, Mr. Bachman has stated to me that he does not consider me an atheist, and that I was misinterpreting his use of the word naturalistic. However, as I clearly show above, the dictionary definition of the word naturalistic, within the context of religion and philosophy, is rejection of God and the supernatural. If authors use a private, idiosyncratic definition of a word, it is their duty to plainly state that they are using the word in a non-standard way. Mr. Bachman did not do this. And illogically, he continues to stand by his nonfactual characterization of me as having naturalistic perspectives.
At best, these three reviewers’ use of the term “naturalistic” to characterize me is sloppy and unfortunate, showing that they did not do the basic homework of looking up a highly loaded word before using it. One hopes that such ad hominem sloppiness does not become the hallmark of the kind of scholarly dialogue found in FARMS, BYU and the Church Educational System.
One reader has written recently, mentioning that Leonard J. Arrington has sometimes referred to “human or naturalistic” analysis as a necessary component of the New Mormon history, without the New Mormon history (Arrington continues) denying in any way the belief in the divinity of the LDS church. (See, e.g., Arrington’s “Scholarly Studies of Mormonism in the Twentieth Century,” Dialogue 1 (Spring 1966), 15-32, 28.) However, Arrington uses this term in a much different context that do Anderson, Faulring and Bachman.
First, Arrington clearly is using “naturalistic” to describe a part of a whole. He emphasizes that the other part of the whole, and the most important part, is his belief in God. This “human or naturalistic” analysis does not conflict with an underlying belief in God. When Anderson, Faulring and Bachman used the term, they did not describe a part of a whole. They were not making a nuanced use of the term, emphasizing (or even mentioning) my overarching theism. They simply threw out a loaded term without qualification.
Second, Arrington is referring to himself, his own kind of history, the kind of history he approves of. He is not referring to another person, another individual, in a negative context. (And obviously, Anderson, Faulring and Bachman were not using their “naturalistic” language in a positive context.)
The abovementioned reader argued that I was misinterpreting the word “naturalistic,” that it meant something entirely other than “atheist.” He agreed that the dictionary definition of the word was atheist, someone who totally rejects God and the supernatural, but thought that that was not necessarily what the term really meant. However, I don’t think that readers of FARMS Review of Books will look up the definition of naturalism in a dictionary of philosophy when they read those reviews. Instead, they will turn to a standard dictionary. (And the one I happened to turn to, Webster’s, is a standard, mainstream dictionary. I didn’t seek out a dictionary with a peculiar definition of naturalism.) At the very least, Anderson, Faulring and Bachman should have known that one basic meaning of the term naturalism is a rejection of God and the supernatural, and that if they used the term to mean something other than that, they should make it very clear that they were not using it in that basic, most obvious sense.
However, unfortunately, in my view, the argumentation of those passages where Anderson, Faulring and Bachman use the term “naturalistic” breaks down if the term wasn’t intended to mean “rejection of God and the supernatural.”
Since writing the above, I have casually checked other dictionaries on the meaning of the word “naturalism.” Here is the definition offered by the new Microsoft Encarta College Dictionary (N.Y.: St. Martins Press, 2001): 2 . . . a belief that all religious truth is derived from nature and natural causes, and not from revelation 3 . . . a system of thought that rejects all spiritual and supernatural explanations of the world and holds that science is the sole basis of what can be known.” Again, naturalism is a complete rejection of the supernatural and revelation: “all”, “all,” science as “sole basis.” My view of God and science is simple: science and the study of nature is part of God’s infinitely beautiful creation and learning about science is a way of discovering how God works, his laws. There is no conflict between the gospel and science, or between the gospel and the scientific process. Certainly, no scientist has complete and absolute truth; but no mortal man possesses complete and absolute truth. Religionists and scientists need to work together constructively, without demonizing each other.
I think it is possible that these reviewers’ willingness to typecast me as holding “naturalistic” (atheist) positions may once again be a result of their unwillingness to accept a moderate religious position in Mormonism.
It may be worthwhile to outline another far-right, moderate, far-left, schema here. First of all, far to the left is naturalism as defined by Webster’s — the belief that all religious phenomena are caused by natural forces, a radical rejection of any supernatural, divine influence at all. This is, of course, atheism. Far to the right would be the view of religious phenomena as completely the result of supernatural intervention, with no shred of human synthesis in any way, either from the prophet’s mind or from the culture he is part of.
I propose that there is a tenable middle ground between these two extremes, just as in the evolution question (see above). Actually, there are many possible middle grounds. First, God will use the personality of the prophet when giving revelation. Thus, an analysis of a prophet’s personality, psychology and character is not by definition atheistic. Second, God can use the prophet’s culture to influence him. The prophet interrelates with it. True, he will react firmly against some aspects of it; but he will be nurtured by other aspects of it. Richard Bushman’s Joseph Smith and the Origins of Mormonism reflects Joseph Smith’s early preoccupation with scrying and treasure seeking — but it shows how some aspects of the phenomenon worked toward Joseph’s “gift of seeing” while other aspects of it worked against his prophetic mission.
In fact, I suggest that any apologetic that attempts to defend the far-right position — no human or social intermixture at all in religious phenomena — will be doomed to failure for all observant, thoughtful persons. One example of this from another religion is the Protestant doctrine of the Bible as inerrant. A wealth of evidence argues against this, if you read the Bible seriously. Some thirty-seven different authors wrote the books of the Bible (give or take a few), and their personalities are clearly imprinted on their books, even when they are speaking with inspiration. Moreover, their differing cultures give their books entirely different atmospheres. The contrast in world-view between the stories of Abraham in Genesis and the Hellenistic background of Paul is unmistakable and striking. Some inspired authors disagreed with each other, indeed had major conflicts (e.g., Peter and Paul in Galatians 2, one thinks also of the books written by Paul and James, with their contrasting views on works). Some prophets had dramatically different methods of operating. There are stark contradictions in the four Gospel accounts, as we would expect in any historical documents. Then there are problems in textual transmission, after the Bible was written and collected. All ancient manuscripts of the Bible disagree with each other. We can assess differing readings of specific words and phrases only on the basis of probability, not with certainty. The Bible is undoubtedly not inerrant; but its inspiration co-exists with its errancy. It is the same with any religious phenomenon. The extreme conservative idea that a prophet is not influenced in any significant way by his environment will also be rejected by thoughtful believers. It is absurd to try to study prophetic writers outside of their environments, for they were interacting with their environment throughout their lives. So Richard Lloyd Anderson’s excellent book on Paul gives us a great deal of insight into Paul’s culture, which in turn gives us insight into his writings. Understanding Paul’s cultural background — his training as a Pharisee, his Hellenistic education — helps us understand what part of his thought was inspired, unique. It also shows what part of his thought was inspired and derived from pre-existing influences, such as the Old Testament scriptures, and the just- crystallizing oral traditions about the teaching of Jesus. And it also shows what part of his thought was human, time bound, culture bound (one thinks of his emphatic ban against women speaking in church, obviously not an eternal principle).
Thus the idea that a prophet is hermetically sealed off from his environment, lives in a cultural vacuum, is a fallacy. A prophet continually interreacts with his environment. And to say that his inspiration is totally separated from his environment is equally wrong.
Here are some possible synthesizing positions that are worth considering when considering the subject of revelation and environment: (1) A prophet can be deeply impressed by something in his environment. This can act as a catalyst; he can ask God about the issue and receive revelation. But there is no reason to say that God did not prepare the catalyst also. (2) God can prepare something in a prophet’s environment as “raw material” for his prophetic expression and vision. For instance, the phrases of the King James Bible were used by Joseph Smith when he received his revelations. The King James predated Joseph Smith; he was familiar with it. He used it in the Book of Mormon and in his Doctrine and Covenants revelations. This is not unusual — in the Bible, prophets often built on the words of earlier prophets. The Book of Revelations uses whole passages from the Book of Daniel. The totality of its vision is very different from the totality of Daniel’s vision, but many phrases are exactly the same. This middle position is not an attack on revelation and the supernatural. It is merely a perspective on how revelation and the supernatural work.
(3) In looking at prophets, we should not ignore Joseph Smith’s “A prophet is not always a prophet” principle. Prophets, when they are not acting as a prophets, can make mistakes; they retain their free agency after their calling, as the Book of Jonah abundantly shows. Again, we might mention Galatians 2, which shows Paul rebuking the supreme leader of the New Testament church (in Mormon terms, the church’s “prophet” at the time), and in fact accusing him of moral cowardice. Even the great Moses sinned, and was not allowed to enter the promised land. This principle allows us to accept human elements of prophets, their mistakes, without enshrining their mistakes. So prophets can have personal limitations, and they can have some of the limitations of their culture, and still be inspired at other times. This is not an atheistic position. It merely asserts that some aspects of prophetic lives and writings are inspired and eternal, while other aspects are culture-bound and personality-bound. If we were to regard Jonah’s loveless thirst for the destruction of the people he prophesied to as a perfect, or admirable, attribute, we would be making a terrible mistake. I would go a step further and say that, while prophets can be inspired, their human expression of their inspiration is always limited, is never absolutely perfect. Joseph Smith reworking sections of the Doctrine and Covenants is an example of this. Limitations in the revelations of the Old Testament show that no revelation is ever absolute, but always has human and cultural elements. This is not to deny that inspiration does not occur in the books of the Old Testament. Aspects of it are eternal; other aspects are culture-limited. Some have characterized this kind of reading of scripture as “grocery shopping” — choosing what is easy and comfortable from the scriptures and ignoring what is difficult. On the contrary, the insightful reader will recognize the eternal parts of the scriptures and be as bound by them, and inspired by them, as ever. Furthermore, this kind of reading keeps us from being passive, unthoughtful readers — it shows us that we must use our moral agency as we read. There are enormous dangers in regarding the culture-limited phenomenon (such as women not speaking in church, or archaic Palestinian holy war) in religious history as an eternal principle.
In my particular moderate perspective, revelation can come in complex ways. One oversimplified view of revelation is that it always comes in pristine, final form to a person at the top of the hierarchy, then is merely handed down to those lower in the hierarchy. In fact, revelation sometimes comes to those lower in the hierarchy, then these influence those higher up. (For example, a counselor can influence a president.) Often church leaders must struggle with an issue, research it, talk about it, debate the issue, change from incorrect to correct positions, sometimes in generational time frames, before final inspiration comes.
Such “moderate” perspectives allow us a fascinating view of complexity in the church. One oversimplified view of the church is that all church leaders believe exactly the same correct thing at all times; they are seen as opposed to church “enemies” who are completely evil. Actually, anyone with any background in church history knows that church leaders have often disagreed, sometimes strongly and heatedly, among themselves. This is not true merely of modern leaders; it is also true of the early apostles in the primitive church, as when Paul “withstood Peter to his face.” (Galatians 2.) Thus we can view church history as showing not simple monolithic perfection unified against monolithic evil outside the church; but as tensions within the leadership, different currents and dimensions of thought and action in the leading quorums in the church. Among our modern leaders we will find acerbic Jonahs and gentle, otherworldly Johns; there will be forward-looking, inclusive leaders (such as Paul) coming into conflict with more traditional leaders (such as James). On an individual level, sometimes a church leader will be wonderfully right and farseeing on one issue and culture-bound on another issue. So not only is there a complex view of church history, but a complex view of every church leader.
Therefore, my views on history and religion are completely theistic, though my view of how God works in history may be more complex than that of the conservative on the far right. I have no objection to Anderson, Faulring and Bachman if they disagree with my particular moderate positions, and hold to positions to the right of me. But I do object when they label me as naturalistic / atheistic or allied with John C. Bennett.
I am on record elsewhere warning about the dangers of ad hominem attack in religious scholarship (or rather, mixed with scholarship, as it is not scholarship), in both conservative and liberal writing. As I stated there, ad hominem is extremely easy to write; anyone can call anyone anything. However, careful, constructive scholarship — the plodding collection and assimilation of data, assessing data in a balanced way — is difficult. It will always be seductively tempting to replace meticulous research and writing with emotionally satisfying, shallow, partisan ad hominem attack. Even when some token scholarship is combined with ad hominem, the ad hominem has all the emotional force. Scholarship is devalued.
In addition, ad hominem deflects focus from the original problems, the real problems. In other words, we have the problem of Joseph Smith’s polygamy. Rather than deal with this problem constructively, by doing good scholarly work on the subject, the ad hominem policy simply advises personal attack on anyone who does deal with the issue. On a short term basis, this deflects attention from the issue; but on a long term basis, the underlying problem remains. For instance, Joseph Smith married a fourteen year old girl polygamously as a result of a dynastic arrangement with her father, an apostle. The documentation for this is not in doubt; I do not believe that Anderson, Faulring or Bachman would disagree in any way. Even if there was no sexual consummation in the marriage (and, as I have stated previously, my best guess is that there was no sexual consummation) — this is still an event that has problematic aspects. If Anderson, Faulring, and Bachman deal with it by labeling me an atheist or a modern John C. Bennett, the underlying problem still remains. This is not a wise, long-term solution to the real problem.
Why would such writers as this — whose past writings I have respected — unfactually characterize me as atheist? This is a question I’ve pondered a great deal since the Anderson, Faulring and Bachman’s reviews appeared. The only answer to that question that allows me to see these writers in any kind of sympathetic terms is a deepened realization of how difficult the issue of Joseph Smith’s polygamy is for conservative Latter-Day Saints, who have tried to set it aside for so many years. The typical heightened view of Joseph Smith many Mormons hold to, and the Joseph Smith who was a polygamist, do not seem to be the same person. So, instead of seeking to create a holistic view of Joseph Smith including a full, frank examination of polygamy in his life and thought, the details of his plural marriages have usually been avoided.
In addition, I realize that sometimes people who are extreme conservatives do not respect the faith of people who are liberal, or moderate, or even conservative but less conservative than they are. (In fact, in some circles, I am viewed as a conservative. Many who write and read Mormon history have no connection with the Mormon church; some of them view me with suspicion, when I profess belief in God and my participation in LDS church activity.) When I included the statement I did in In Sacred Loneliness about my faith, obviously, I did not take forty pages and discuss all the ramifications of my spiritual experiences. (It was not the appropriate place to do so, though I felt readers should know my Mormon background and perspective.) A person’s heart, soul, experience, and faith is a very complex thing. Nevertheless, for extreme conservatives, faith that is not exactly like theirs is rejected as valid faith at all. While I understand there is a gap in understanding between liberal, moderate and conservative (and certainly, I believe that the extreme conservative’s faith is often oversimplified), the conservative’s leap to characterize a moderate author as “atheistic” — unless there is clear evidence of atheism (such as a statement admitting atheism by the author) — seems to me to be unworthy of conscientious scholars or church members.
One aspect of ad hominem that is particularly destructive and undisciplined is its lack of precision. For instance, Bachman typecasts me as a John C. Bennett figure — Bennett is the archetypal figure of evil in Nauvoo history. But in bringing up Bennett’s name, he conjures a whole constellation of associations, all of which will apply to me in the reader’s mind. At the risk of taking Bachman’s ad hominem more seriously than it deserves, I will point out a few of Bennett’s aspects that do not apply to me. First, I have never held high office in the church, so cannot be accused of being the politically ambitious kind of person that Bennett was. Second, my book was written as a result of years of patient work in archives, libraries, and genealogical centers (culling mostly sympathetic sources, diaries, autobiographies). Bennett’s book was not. It was a quickly written journalistic exposé. Third, Bennett’s book is typically anti-Mormon in its lack of balance. As I show above, my book is full of balance. Bachman makes none of these distinctions. A conscientious scholar should have.
Finally, as our church has become increasingly polarized, one wonders if the moderate will survive. If the far right grows increasingly aggressive, militant, anti-intellectual and intolerant, the LDS moderate could be forcefully distanced from the community. While obviously the far right would see this as a victory, I suggest that the moderate can be a stabilizing force. One hopes that the LDS church will not split into extreme conservative and extreme liberal wings — one thinks of the division of American Lutheranism into “conservative” and “liberal” denominations, or of the tripartite split of American Judaism. Time will tell.
 See Dean Jessee, ed., The Papers of Joseph Smith, Volume 1, Autobiographical and Historical Writings (SLC: Deseret, 1989), 1:5-7, 272-73; Thomas G. Alexander, “The Reconstruction of Mormon Doctrine,” Sunstone 22 (June 1999): 15-29, 16; James B. Allen, “The Significance of Joseph Smith’s ‘First Vision’ in Mormon Thought,” in D. Michael Quinn, ed., The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past (SLC: Signature Books, 1992), 37-52.
 Jessee, The Papers of Joseph Smith, 1:15-95; Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, Volume 2 (SLC: Signature Books, 1998), 416-66; D. Michael Quinn, Early Mormonism and the Magic World View, 2nd rev. ed. (SLC: Signature Books, 1998), 136- 77. Emma Smith, in an 1879 interview with Joseph Smith III, said, “In writing for J.S. I frequently wrote for day after day, often he sitting at the table close by him, he sitting with his face bu=ried in his hat, with the stone in it and dictating hour after hour, with nothing between us.” Notes for interview published in Saints’ Herald 26 (Oct. 1, 1879): 279, repr. in Dan Vogel, ed., Early Mormon Documents, Volume 1 (SLC: Signature Books, 1996), 539; cf. Quinn, Early Mormonism, 171.
 For example, D&C 68:14-26, cf. the original text in The Evening and Morning Star (October 1832): 3; see Richard Howard, Restoration Scriptures: A Study of Their Textual Development, 2nd rev. ed. (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1995), 149-66. See also Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power (SLC: Signature Books, 1994), 5-40 and Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations (SLC: Signature Books, 1999).
 For conservative documentation, see Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson’s collection of affidavits, and his list of 27 of Joseph Smith’s plural wives, “Plural Marriage,” Historical Record 6 (May 1887): 219-40. See my discussion of Jenson’s reliability, below. In addition to my book, see Lawrence Foster, Religion and Sexuality: Three American Communal Experiences of the Nineteenth Century (NY: Oxford University Press, 1981); Richard Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy: A History (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1986); Linda King Newell and Valeen Tippetts Avery, Mormon Enigma: Prophet’s Wife, ‘Elect Lady,’ Polygamy’s Foe (Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1984).
 See Juanita Brooks, The Mountain Meadows Massacre, 2nd ed. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962),143, 151, 158-59, 165-66, 181.
 For example, Wilford Woodruff journal, Apr. 9, 10, 1852 (Scott Kenney edition, 4:129-30); March 19, 1854 (Kenney 4:250); Sept. 17, 1854 (Kenney 4:288); David Buerger, “The Adam-God Doctrine,” Dialogue 15 (Spring 1982): 14-58; Gary Bergera, “The Orson Pratt-Brigham Young Controversies: Conflicts within the Quorums, 1853-1868,” Dialogue 13 (Summer 1980): 7-49.
 Heber Grant Ivins, “Polygamy in Mexico as Practiced by the Mormon Church, 1895-1905,” typescript, University of Utah library, also available on New Mormon Studies CD-Rom (SLC: Signature Books, 1998); E. Carmon Hardy, Solemn Covenant: The Mormon Polygamous Passage (Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1992); Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy.
 For the previous LDS ban on blacks receiving priesthood, see Lester E. Bush, Jr. and Armand L. Mauss, eds., Neither White nor Black: Mormon Scholars Confront the Race Issue in a Universal Church (Midvale, Utah: Signature Books, 1984).
 Almost any substantive nineteenth-century Mormon journal will reflect this. See also Lester E. Bush, Jr., Health and Medicine among the Latter-day Saints: Science, Sense and Scripture (NY: Crossroad, 1993), 48-59.
 See Wallace Stegner, The Gathering of Zion (NY: McGraw-Hill, 1964); Leonard Arrington, Great Basin Kingdom: An Economic History of the Latter-day Saints, 1830- 1900 (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1958); id., Adventures of a Mormon Historian (Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 1998), 175-85.
 For instance, the idea that Joseph Smith could marry a fourteen year old girl, Helen Mar Whitney, is part of my faith perspective, because the documentation for the event is indisputable. But I do not think that it was necessarily wise for him to marry Helen. So my view of the gospel includes church leaders who can on occasion make serious mistakes.
 Donna Hill, Joseph Smith, the First Mormon (Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc., 1977), 62.
 Quicksand and Cactus: A Memoir of the Southern Mormon Frontier (SLC: Westwater Press, 1981), 229.
 See Juanita Brooks’ talk, “Sins of Omission in Presenting Mormon History,” typescript, Utah State Historical Society. For the new evidence on Native Americans’ limited role in the Massacre, see Christopher Smith, “Mormon Massacre at Mountain Meadows: Forensic Analysis Supports Paiute Tribe’s Claim of Passive Role,” Salt Lake Tribune (January 21, 2001).
 James N. Kimball, “J. Golden Kimball: Private Life of a Public Figure,” Journal of Mormon History 24 (1998): 55-84.
 Edward L. Kimball and Andrew E. Kimball, Jr., Spencer W. Kimball: Twelfth President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (SLC: Bookcraft, Inc., 1977), ix.
 An Abundant Life: The Memoirs of Hugh B. Brown, ed. by Edwin B. Firmage (SLC: Signature Books, 1988), 16.
 Ronald K. Esplin and Richard E. Turley, Jr., “Mountain Meadows Massacre,” Encyclopedia of Mormonism, 4 vols., ed. Daniel H. Ludlow (New York: Macmillan, 1992) 2:966-68.
 Arrington calls this the “theological marionette bias” that has weakened much Mormon history. See “The Search for Truth and Meaning in Mormon History,” Dialogue 3 (Summer 1968): 56-65, 61, also found in D. Michael Quinn, ed., The New Mormon History: Revisionist Essays on the Past (SLC: Signature Books, 1992), 1-12, 6. This is related to “the unanimity bias,” 64.
 James E. Talmage, The Story and Philosophy of Mormonism (Salt Lake City: The Deseret News, 1914), 89. “But that plural marriage is a vital tenet of the Church is not true . . . Plurality of wives was an incident, never an essential.” While modern polygamists understandably cite this quotation with disapproval, as conflicting with earlier church leaders’ viewpoints, I think Talmage’s view reflects an inspired step forward in our church’s history.
 Eugene England, “Fidelity, Polygamy and Marriage,” in Dialogue 20 (Winter 1987): 138-54; repr. in Brent Corcoran, ed., Multiply and Replenish: Mormon Essays on Sex and Family (SLC: Signature Books, 1994), 103-22.
 I have written three articles based on Jesus’s parables, actions and teachings: “Heaven and Hell: The Parable of the Loving Father and the Judgmental Son,” Dialogue 29.4 (Winter 1996): 31-46; “Thoughts on the Possibility of an Open Temple,” Sunstone 22.1 #113 (March-April 1999): 42-49; “Was Jesus a Feminist?” Dialogue 32.4 (Winter 1999): 1- 18.
 For example, see David Earle Bohn, “Unfounded Claims and Impossible Expectations: A Critique of the New Mormon History,” in George D. Smith, ed., Faithful History (SLC: Signature Books, 1992), 227-61, 228. Here Bohn states that the “New Mormon Historians” “argue for an essentially naturalistic or secular approach to the Mormon past.” See my discussion of the meaning of “naturalistic” as “atheistic,” below. For the literature for and against the “New Mormon History,” see Quinn, “Editor’s Introduction,” The New Mormon History, xiv, xviii, footnotes 8 and 13.
 Leonard J. Arrington, Adventures of a Church Historian, 84; “The Founding of the Latter-day Saint History Department,” Journal of Mormon History 18 (1992): 41-56, 50.
 For positions on evolution within Mormonism, see Gene A. Sessions and Craig J. Oberg, eds., The Search for Harmony: Essays on Science and Mormonism (SLC: Signature Books, 1993). Richard Sherlock’s “A Turbulent Spectrum: Mormon Reactions to the Darwinist Legacy,” 67-92, gives an overview of the continuum, from then Apostle Joseph Fielding Smith (evolution was “Satan’s chief weapon in this dispensation to destroy the divine mission of Jesus Christ,” see “Editors’ Introduction,” vii) to Apostle and scientist John A. Widstoe (“The law of evolution . . . does not require that all things, all life, shall have a common origin. It merely declares that everything in the universe is moving onward.” Ibid. xi). The conflict of Joseph Fielding Smith and scientist Henry Eyring is a fascinating story, see Steven H. Heath, “Agreeing to Disagree: Henry Eyring and Joseph Fielding Smith,” 137-54. For unwillingness to accept a middle ground, see Sherlock, “Turbulent Spectrum,” 70: “[Joseph Fielding] Smith denied that one could be a theistic evolutionist.” Smith seemed to have a confrontative view of the gospel (the gospel and science are opposed, and it is our duty to accept the gospel and reject science), while Widstoe, Talmage and Merrill seemed to have an comprehensive view of the gospel (the gospel includes science). Widstoe wrote that the Church “holds . . . that every scientific discovery may be incorporated into the gospel.” The Church, “which comprehends all truth, accepts all the reliably determined facts used in building the hypothesis of organic evolution.” John A. Widstoe, In Search of Truth (SLC: Deseret Book, 1963), 125, 77, as cited in “Editors’ Introduction,” xx.
 See Newell Bringhurst’s insightful biography, Fawn McKay Brodie: A Biographer’s Life (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1999).
 “Fawn Brodie on Joseph Smith’s Plural Wive and Polygamy: A Critical View,” in Newell Bringhurst, ed., Reconsidering No Man Knows My History: Fawn M. Brodie and Joseph Smith in Retrospect (Logan: Utah State University Press, 1996), 154-94
 See my “Fawn Brodie,” 156-58.
 For their labeling me as naturalistic, see below. See my pp. xii-xiii. It is a common practice for naturalistic, secularist authors to edit the miraculous out of their narratives. If I had been trying to seek acceptance on the naturalistic side of the spectrum, I would have left out the many miraculous occurrences in my book. Anderson and Faulring, in what I consider a bizarre and unfortunate judgment, refer to my work as psychohistory, a term associated with Brodie. See below.
 I do think significant recurring patterns will be found generally in Mormon polygamous women, see the literature referred to at In Sacred Loneliness, 630, especially Suzanne Adel Katz, “Sisters in Salvation: Patterns of Emotional Loneliness Among Nineteenth-Century Non-Elite Mormon Polygamous Women,” M.A. thesis, California State University at Fullerton, 1987. While writing In Sacred Loneliness, I purposely stayed away from books on modern polygamy, such as Jesse L. Embry, Mormon Polygamous Families: Life in the Principle (SLC: University of Utah Pres, 1987) and Irwin Altman and Joseph Ginat, Polygamous Families in Contemporary Society (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), though many of the same recurring patterns can be found there.
 Bachman describes my tone as “mild” and “not shrill,” but he seems to mention this only as a contrast to the perceived complete negativism of the content of my book.
 It received a T. Edgar Lyon Award of Excellence for an Article in Mormon History in the May 1997 MHA conference, and a Dialogue award as best article of the year in the category of History and Biography.
 Janet Ellingson, Letter to the Editor, Journal of Mormon History 23.1 (Spring 1997), vi-vii.
 Lawrence Foster, “Sex and Prophetic Power: A Comparison of John Humphrey Noyes, Founder of the Oneida Community, with Joseph Smith, Jr., the Mormon Prophet,” Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 31:4 (Winter 1998): 65-84, 77. See also Foster’s recent review of In Sacred Loneliness in Dialogue 33.1 (Spring 2000 [actual: June 2001]): 184-86. Though this review contains much that is positive, it continues to argue that Joseph Smith did not actually marry Fanny Alger.
 See my “Fawn Brodie,” 166-71; In Sacred Loneliness, 670.
 See my “Fawn Brodie,” 156-57.
 In Sacred Loneliness, 231; “Fawn Brodie,” 157-58.
 (Provo: BYU Press, 1977), 400.
 See Jack Larkin, The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840 (New York: Harper & Row, 1988), 63; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives: Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New England, 1650-1750 (NY: Oxford University Press, 1980), 6; Nancy F. Cott, “Young Women in the Second Great Awakening in New England,” Feminist Studies 3 (1975): 16. Larkin writes, “American women began to marry in their late teens; around different parts of the United States the average age of marriage varied from nineteen to twenty-three.”
 Cf. later cases in Mormon history when young women married older men, then continued to socialize with young men of their age group — see Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet (SLC: Signature Books, 1991), 135, and In Sacred Loneliness, 390, in which another of Joseph’s younger wives was separated from a young man she was seeing socially.
 See Timothy Egan, “The Persistence of Polygamy,” The New York Times Magazine (Feb. 28, 1999), 51-55, for an introduction to polygamous practices of Tom Green and the Kingston family.
 See my section on interpretive writing in history below.
 Martha Sonntag Bradley and Mary Brown Firmage Woodward (a descendant of Zina), in Four Zinas: A Story of Mothers and Daughters on the Mormon Frontier (SLC: Signature Books, 2000), 115, 137. However, I have not yet been able to confirm this reference in a primary source.
 Review of In Sacred Loneliness, in Pacific Historical Review 68 (Aug. 1999): 466-468, 467. Once again, I have not yet been able to confirm this reference in a primary source.
 “Fawn Brodie,” 155-58 is my primary critique of Brodie, see also “Fawn Brodie” passim and In Sacred Loneliness ix, 280-81, 629, 670.
 See above on Oliver Buell.
 See my remarks on whether Andrew Jenson and his sources are unreliable, below.
 291-92 n. 5.
 “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage before the Death of Joseph Smith,” (Master’s Thesis, Purdue University, 1975), pp. 338-40, cf. In Sacred Loneliness, p. 641. Bachman’s thesis is available at the LDS Church History Department library.
 Anderson and Faulring seem to think that I have short-changed Bachman’s contribution to the study of early Mormon polygamy. (p. 73) I did not write a historiography of polygamy in Mormonism, but if I had, I would have given Bachman full credit for his remarkable master’s thesis. Not long after my book was published, I ran into D. Michael Quinn, and mentioned how highly I regarded Bachman’s thesis. Mike agreed and mentioned that it surpassed many doctoral theses. However, Bachman, though he published a paper on Joseph Smith’s Kirtland-era polygamy, “New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelations on Eternal Marriage,” Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 19-32, has since withdrawn from active research and publication on the issue. He has never sought to publish his thesis.
 Richard L. Anderson, “Joseph Smith’s New York Reputation Reappraised,” Brigham Young University Studies 10 (Spring 1970): 283-314.
 Furthermore, as I show below, Anderson and Faulring inconsistently accept second hand testimony on occasion.
 (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1988), 41-55. The following quotes are from pages 55 and 45.
 As is shown by the Helen Mar Whitney journal, Merrill Library, Utah State University, June 5-22, 1886; October 7-13, 1887; January 27, 1888; June 27-29, August 27, 29, 1889.
 Emmeline Wells to Mary Lightner, Febr. 10, 1887, CA.
 Zina Young to Mary Lightner June 8, (), CA.
 Anderson and Faulring in other cases accept second-hand evidence willingly; e.g., when they accept Melissa Lott’s statement on Emma Smith agreeing to her (Melissa’s) marriage to Joseph Smith (p. 86, Melissa says that her parents told her that Emma gave her permission for her (Melissa’s) marriage to Joseph Smith.) Another example is Anderson and Faulring’s attempt to put forth Benjamin Johnson as preferred witness for the time of Fanny Alger’s marriage, 78-79, see below.
 “A Study of the Mormon Practice of Plural Marriage,” 112, n. 26.
 See “Heber C. Kimball: His Wives and Family,” in Kate Carter, ed. and comp., Our Pioneer Heritage (SLC: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1971) 10:377-428, reprinted in pamphlet form, Kate B. Carter, ed. and comp., Heber C. Kimball: His Wives and Family(SLC: Daughters of Utah Pioneers, 1967); Stanley Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 307-16.
 Cf. In Sacred Loneliness, 316, where Eliza R. Snow, Elizabeth Whitney, Elvira Cowles, and Elizabeth Durphy visit the Lott farm soon before Melissa Lott’s marriage to Joseph Smith.
 See In Sacred Loneliness, 632.
 See In Sacred Loneliness, 643; Dean Zimmerman, ed., I Knew the Prophets: An Analysis of the Letter of Benjamin F. Johnson to George F. Gibbs, Reporting Doctrinal Views of Joseph Smith and Brigham Young (Bountiful, UT: Horizon Publishers, 1976), 11.
 Zimmerman, I Knew the Prophets, 38.
 Anderson and Faulring critique my statement that “Emma was consistently implacable in her opposition to the ‘principle’“ (their p. 86, In Sacred Loneliness, 388), and state that it would be “more accurate” to say that she “alternately cooperated and rebelled,” as Orson Pratt stated. This makes it sound as if I was not aware that Emma had at one time allowed Joseph plural wives. However, my following sentence, which Anderson and Faulring should have mentioned, affirms that Emma allowed Joseph at least four wives, as is well known. Once again, they attacked a position I did not take. Incidentally, “alternately cooperated and rebelled” implies that Emma continually went back and forth on this issue. Actually, if we follow Mormon Enigma, it appears that Emma had a brief window of time when she allowed Joseph plural marriages (i.e., when she married the Partridge and Lawrence sisters, in March-May, 1843). But, as I stated on p. 388 of In Sacred Loneliness, even during this period she was far from a real convert to polygamy. Emily Partridge wrote, “Emma seemed to feel well until the ceremony was over, when almost before she could draw a second breath, she turned, and was more bitter in her feelings than ever before, if possible, and before the day was over she turned around or repented what she had done and kept Joseph up till very late in the night talking to him.” (Quoted at Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma, 143.)
 Journal of Mary Ellen Kimball (Salt Lake City: Pioneer Press, 1994), 39; Altman and Ginat, Polygamous Families, 134-36, 140.
 In Sacred Loneliness, 555. And once again, if I were simply pushing a narrow negative thesis and editing out all contrary evidence, as per Anderson and Faulring and Bachman, I probably would not have included a story such as this.
 Examples in In Sacred Loneliness, 555, 556, 453; another example at Altman and Ginat, Polygamous Families, 105.
 Cf. Altman and Ginat, Polygamous Families, 104-5.
 Wilford Woodruff journal, Oct. 26, 1868 (Kenney 6:435), quoted at In Sacred Loneliness, 748. Modern parallels in Altman and Ginat, Polygamous Families, 104- 5.
 Though it should be noted that Emma’s biographers disagree, see In Sacred Loneliness, 715, Newell and Avery, Mormon Enigma 328.
 Anderson and Faulring, 86, point out that Melissa Lott said in the Temple Lot case that Emma gave her permission for the marriage. This is a very valuable reference, and I am grateful that they brought it to my attention. I accept it tentatively, but we should note that Melissa was not speaking from first-hand knowledge. Her parents told her that Emma had given her permission, but Emma was not present at the marriage. This is an example of how Anderson and Faulring accept second-hand testimony in some circumstances. They should have a consistent methodological framework for doing this; if not, they will be perceived as arbitrarily accepting and rejecting evidence.
 See Helen Mar Kimball Whitney’s autobiography, at Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History (Provo, Ut.: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 1997), 137; In Sacred Loneliness, 496.
 Cf. the William Clayton journal, Aug. 16, 1843, quoted in In Sacred Loneliness, 635.
 I would not call two wives “normative”; certainly small plural families were more common that large ones. But an important wrinkle to factor in here is that elite Mormon men tended to marry more wives than less elite men for religious reasons, see In Sacred Loneliness, 10-11. Though I did not focus on later polygamy, this was an established principle in Utah polygamy. See Helen Fisher Smith’s statement cited at In Sacred Loneliness, 636.
 Other polygamous families that were apparently harmonious were the families of Southern Utah pioneer Dudley Leavitt, see Juanita Brooks, On the Ragged Edge: The Life and Times of Dudley Leavitt (SLC: Utah State Historical Society, 1973); and Salt Lake Stake President Angus M. Cannon, per an MHA talk given by Donald Q. Cannon at Cedar City, Utah, May, 2001. For positive views of contemporary polygamy, see Mary Batchelor, Marianne Watson and Anne Wilde, Voices in Harmony: Contemporary Women Celebrate Plural Marriage (SLC: Principle Voices, 2000).
 No Man Knows My History, 347.
 “A Study of the Mormon Practice,” 124-36.
 Religion and Sexuality 161-63. Foster prefers not to use the term polyandry, though he accepts that two different kinds of marriage were existing at the same time for these women. I agree with him that, depending on one’s point of view, the term could be rejected. From the viewpoint of legal civil marriage alone, there was no polyandry; and from the perspective of eternal, celestial marriage alone, there was no polyandry. Foster’s emphasis on the latter kind of marriage, I believe, causes him to reject the term.
 “A Study of the Mormon Practice,” 126-28.
 Teachings of the Presidents of the Church: Brigham Young (SLC: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1997), 193-194; Discourses of Brigham Young, ed. by John Widstoe (SLC: [Deseret Book], 1941), 246-47.
 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997).
 (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1996), 72-103.
 Bates and Smith, Lost Legacy, 88-89.
 Leonard Arrington and Davis Bitton, The Mormon Experience (NY: Random House, 1979), 187.
 In an oral response to my book given at the Mormon History Association in 1999, Bachman was even more extreme: In Sacred Loneliness “has taken a step back into the 19th century and joined hands with Eber D. Howe, John C. Bennett, Joseph Jackson, William Hall and a host of other detractors who deny Joseph’s inspiration.”
 Journal of Discourses 3:125, as cited in Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 230.
 “They Might Have Known That He Was Not a Fallen Prophet” — The Nauvoo Journal of Joseph Fielding,” transcribed and edited by Andrew F. Ehat, in Brigham Young University Studies 19 (1979): 133-66, 149. I am indebted to Gary Bergera for this reference.
 See Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 230; also Irene M. Bates, “William Smith, 1811-93: Problematic Patriarch,” Dialogue 16 (Summer 1983): 19, citing Warsaw Signal, 3 Sept. 1845 and Deposition of Cyrus H. Wheelock, Temple Lot Suit (Abstract), Lamoni, 1893, cited in Ivins Notebook No. 2, p. 111.
 Typescript in my possession, p. 14. I would like to thank Jess Groesbeck for pointing this passage out to me. See also Van Wagoner, Mormon Polygamy, 38-39.
 (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1988).
 For my skeptical view of this suggestion, see above.
 See above for an analysis of the historical reliability of this statement.
 “Fawn Brodie,” 155-57.
 “Fawn Brodie,” 193 n. 54.
 Cf. Barbara Tuchman, A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century (NY: Knopf, 1968), xviii, where she apologized for the frequent use of probability language in her book -- “annoying but, in the absence of documented certainty, unavoidable.” Certainly, writing history from a woman’s point of view often leaves one with less documentation than one would like. The difference between Fanny Young and her brother Brigham in quantity of source material is a vivid illustration of this. This might be a reason that feminist history might have a little more, or substantially more, “probability” language that history about males.
 See Tuchman, A Distant Mirror, xv: The first hazard of Tuchman’s historical enterprise is “uncertain and contradictory data with regard to . . . hard facts.” xvii: “Contradictions . . . are part of life, not merely a matter of conflicting evidence. I would ask the reader to expect contradictions, not uniformity.”
 For further recent discussions of the Danite question, see William G. Hartley, My Best for the Kingdom: History and Autobiography of John Lowe Butler, a Mormon Frontiersman (Salt Lake City: Aspen Books, 1993), 41-80 (a conservative view); Stephen C. LeSueur, “The Danites Reconsidered: Were They Vigilantes or Just the Mormon Version of the Elks Club?” John Whitmer Historical Association Journal 14 (1994): 35-52 (more liberal).
 See D&C 107:33, 36-38. See also Ron Esplin’s fine thesis, “The Emergence of Brigham Young and the Twelve to Mormon Leadership, 1830-41,” (Provo, UT: Ph.D. Diss, BYU, 1981), cited at In Sacred Loneliness, 691; and Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Powers, 59-60, with sources cited there.
 Brigham H. Roberts, ed, History of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 7 vols. (Salt Lake City: Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, 1902-32) (hereafter, HC) 4:403.
 The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power, 65.
 HC 4:402-3.
 For this controversy, on the “New Mormon History” side, see D. Michael Quinn, “Editor’s Introduction,” in The New Mormon History, vii-xx; Thomas G. Alexander, “Historiography and the New Mormon History: A Historian’s Perspective,” Dialogue 19 (Fall 1986): 25-50 (see p. 43 for accusations of “naturalism.”). On the opposing side, Louis Midgely, “The Acids of Modernity and the Crisis in Mormon Historiography,” in Smith, Faithful History, 189-226 and David Earl Bohn, “Unfounded Claims and Impossible Expectations: A Critique of the New Mormon History,” also in Faithful History, 227- 62.
 “Historiography and the New Mormon History,” 40-41.
 In fairness to BYU and the Church Educational System, I should note that BYU historian Kathryn Daynes, though she disagreed with aspects of In Sacred Loneliness, gave it a responsible and balanced review, see Pacific Historical Review 68 (Aug. 1999): 466-468; and Gerald Jonas, a member of the Church Educational System, gave my book a good review. See Church History (1998): 602-3.
 Howard, Restoration Scriptures; Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations.
 For instance, though “holy war,” which demanded that the women and children of the vanquished be killed, was part of the archaic culture of Palestine, such a commandment is counter to the nature of a loving God. See 1 Samuel 15:3.
 See J. Reuben Clark, “When Are the Writings or Sermons of Church Leaders Entitled to the Claim of Scripture?” in Deseret News, Church News section, July 24, 1954, as cited in Duane Jeffrey, “Seers, Savants and Evolution,” 155-87, in Sessions, The Search for Harmony, 186; the whole talk is reprinted in Dialogue 12 (Summer 1979): 68-81. This speech was given at BYU on June 28, 1954 by Clark, a member of the First Presidency. “I have shown that even the president of the Church has not always spoken under the direction of the Holy Ghost, for a prophet is not always a prophet. I noted that the Apostles of the Primitive Church had their differences, that in our own Church, leaders have differed in view from the first.” Hugh B. Brown, a member of the First Presidency, wrote that even doctrinal statements signed by the First Presidency can contain errors, and thus can be supplanted by later statements from the First Presidency. An Abundant Life, 124. For General Authorities disagreeing among themselves, sometimes as the result of heated personal and ideological conflicts reminiscent of Peter, James and Paul in Galatians, see D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power and The Mormon Hierarchy: Extensions of Power (Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1996).
 “Christian Scholarship and the Book of Mormon,” Sunstone 19 (Sept. 1996): 74- 81.
 See Sydney E. Ahlstrom, A Religious History of the American People (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1972), 578-82, 976-77. A bit closer to home, we have the recent break off of the conservative Restoration groups in the Reorganized LDS church. See William D. Russell, “The Fundamentalist Schism, 1958-Present,” in Roger D. Launius and W.B. “Pat” Spillman, eds., Let Contention Cease: The Dynamics of Dissent in the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Independence, MO: Graceland/Park Press, 1991), 125-52, 134-37; Richard P. Howard, The Church Through the Years, Volume 2: The Reorganization Comes of Age, 1860-1992 (Independence, MO: Herald Publishing House, 1993): 409-32.