Unrequited Love – The Threats and Recriminations

The Mormon Delusion, Volume 1. Ch. 6.

Even the most handsome and charming of men and the most charismatic of lovers would not expect to have a one-hundred-percent success rate in their amorous advances, particularly when directed at married women. Joseph Smith was not exactly a good looking man. He would certainly not have been every woman’s first choice, or for married women, even second choice in a husband, especially one who would have to be secretly shared with many other women.

Smith declared to each victim that God had given them to him. There were of course refusals, but Smith was not easily dismissed nor was he very pleased when it happened. Fear was employed to keep women quiet when things went wrong for him. There were always threats to besmirch an unwilling female’s character in the event of her disclosing details of his advances. These were not just idle threats and sometimes they were more than unkindly fulfilled. Smith reverted to cruel, undeserved and public retribution in his attempts to ruin the reputation of anyone who refused his advances and had the courage to expose him for what he really was.

So, how many of Smith’s attempted seductions resulted in failure? How many offended women kept quiet about things, and did anyone have enough courage to call Smith’s bluff, ignore his threats, and reveal all, risking and accepting the consequences of their actions?

  1. Sarah Kimball

Sarah Melissa Granger became the wife of Hiram Kimball on 22 September 1840. Hiram was thirty-four years old and Sarah was twenty-one. Joseph took a fancy to Sarah and approached her in early 1842. Twenty-three-year-old Sarah had been married for eighteen months and was very shocked.

“Joseph Smith taught me the principle of marriage for eternity, and the doctrine of plural marriage. He said that in teaching this he realized that he jeopardized his life; but God had revealed it to him many years before as a privilege with blessings, now God had revealed it again and instructed him to teach with commandment, as the Church could travel [progress] no further without the introduction of this principle.” (Jenson 1887 Vol. 6:232).

Sarah refused Smith outright, telling him in no uncertain terms to “teach it to someone else”. She didn’t mention Smith’s proposition to anyone other than her husband. Hiram had problems with Smith at a Nauvoo City Council meeting held on 19 May 1842. Smith jotted down and “threw across the room” a revelation which said “Hiram Kimball has been insinuating evil, and formulating evil opinions” against the Prophet, which if he does not desist from, “he shall be accursed”. (Ibid. Also: HC. Vol. 5:12-13). In spite of his approach, Sarah’s immediate refusal, and Smith’s subsequent anger, Sarah and Hiram Kimball both remained in the Church for life.

  1. Sarah Pratt

When the young Apostle, Orson Pratt, was twenty-four and Sarah Marinda Bates was nineteen, they married, on 4 July 1836. Records are not exact, but four or five years later, when Sarah was about twenty-four, Joseph Smith, who would have been thirty-six, propositioned Sarah while Orson was away on a mission. Smith’s advances were recorded by Dr. John C. Bennett and are reviewed by Richard Van Wagoner in Dialogue:

“Sometime in late 1840 or early 1841, Joseph Smith confided to his friend that he was smitten by the “amiable and accomplished” Sarah Pratt and wanted her for “one of his spiritual wives, for the Lord had given her to him as a special favor for his faithfulness” (emphasis in original). Shortly afterward, the two men took some of Bennett’s sewing to Sarah’s house. During the visit, as Bennett describes it, Joseph said, “Sister Pratt, the Lord has given you to me as one of my spiritual wives. I have the blessings of Jacob granted me, as God granted holy men of old, and as I have long looked upon you with favor, and an earnest desire of connubial bliss, I hope you will not repulse or deny me.” “And is that the great secret that I am not to utter,” Sarah replied. “Am I called upon to break the marriage covenant, and prove recreant to my lawful husband! I never will.” She added, “I care not for the blessings of Jacob. I have one good husband, and that is enough for me.” But according to Bennett, the Prophet was persistent. Finally Sarah angrily told him on a subsequent visit, “Joseph, if you ever attempt any thing of the kind with me again, I will make a full disclosure to Mr. Pratt on his return home. Depend upon it, I will certainly do it.” “Sister Pratt,” the Prophet responded, “I hope you will not expose me, for if I suffer, all must suffer; so do not expose me. Will you promise me that you will not do it?” “If you will never insult me again,” Sarah replied, “I will not expose you unless strong circumstances should require it.” “If you should tell,” the Prophet added, “I will ruin your reputation, remember that.”” (Bennett 1842: 228-31; emphasis in original. c. in Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Vol. 19.  No. 2. Summer 1986:69-99, see pp. 71-72. Sarah M. Pratt: The Shaping of an apostate, Richard S. Van Wagoner.).

Smith kissed Sarah in front of Bennett later that year. She got so upset that the commotion she made attracted the attention of a neighbour across the street. Sarah ordered Smith out of the house and Smith threw obscenities at her, declaring he had found her in bed with Bennett. Only then did she tell her returned husband, who in turn warned Smith “never to offer an insult of the like again”. (Ibid. pp. 72-73). Orson was devastated by what his wife had to say about Smith’s advances, and equally so by Smith’s charges that Sarah was Bennett’s mistress. Records indicate that he may well have considered suicide. Orson left a note which led to a search involving the entire town. He was found ‘hatless’ and alone on the bank of the Mississippi river, some five miles below Nauvoo. (Brodie 1963:319&n. c: HC Vol. V:138 & 256; also: The Return. Vol. II, Nov 1890:362). Pratt returned and Smith decided that he needed to organise a public meeting in order to explain matters.

It is said that the Prophet admitted to [Pratt] the attempt he made on his wife’s virtue, but that it was done to see whether she was true to her absent husband. (Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought. Vol. 18 No. 3. Fall 1985:67-83, see p.76. Mormon Polyandry in Nauvoo. Richard S. Van Wagoner. c: New York Herald 14 Sep 1877).

It would be impossible to believe that Smith would not have bedded Sarah, had she agreed to his proposals. He was certainly persistent. There was never a recorded ‘test’ when someone said yes to him, other than when Taylor and Kimball agreed to give their wives to Smith, but then he hadn’t approached the women directly. Smith had really wanted, and later obtained, Kimball’s young daughter. (See Ch. 5). Would God want to drive a man to the brink of suicide?

To get himself off the hook, Smith needed a scapegoat and Bennett had to be the fall guy. Smith had sworn statements printed in the local Mormon newspaper, The Wasp, which upheld his own character and condemned Dr. Bennett. Orson Pratt, Sidney Rigdon and George W. Robinson, who was Nancy Rigdon’s brother-in-law (see later section), would not sign the affidavit.

It was the end of Dr. Bennett’s career, not only in the Church, but in his collusion with Smith regarding extramarital relationships and abortions Bennett had been performing. Bennett, who had been Smith’s close friend and Assistant President, had outlived his usefulness and he had to go. He was none too happy and exposed Smith’s lifestyle in print. Some of Bennett’s claims are rejected by the Church. However, many details appear to be substantiated by the writings of the people involved, such as Sarah Pratt. A resolution appeared on 1 August 1842 in the Times and Seasons, supporting the character of the prophet. It was presented by none other than Wilson Law. Wilson and his brother William were later to publish the first (and only) edition of the Nauvoo Expositor. The ever amorous Smith was yet to make his biggest mistake, when he tried his luck with Wilson’s sister-in-law, Jane. (See next section). Smith’s proposal to Jane Law effectively led him on a path to his death. (Van Wagoner 1989:30-33 & n.9).   

Joseph Smith’s advances to Sarah were refused, but Smith still managed to posthumously destroy her marriage through his teachings regarding polygamy. Orson was soon to fully embrace it. There were some difficulties between Smith and Orson, and the Pratts were excommunicated from 20 August 1842 to 20 January 1843. Orson and Sarah were rebaptised and Orson was restored to his former apostleship. Pratt then went on to take a total of ten wives and have forty-five children. Unlike Smith, at least all Orson’s wives were single when he married them. With Smith’s advances still relatively fresh in her memory, Sarah had to contend with Orson developing his own string of polygamous wives and children. It started just a couple of years later and extended over many years until the day that Sarah finally snapped.

Name Marriage Location Age Pratt age Children†
Sarah M. Bates 4 Jul 1836 Henderson, NY 19 24 12  (6 die)
Charlatte Bishop 1844 Nauvoo, Illinois About 31 32 0
Mary Ann Merrill 27 Mar 1845 Nauvoo, Illinois 25 33 5  (1 dies)
Adelia Ann Bishop 13 Jan 1846 Nauvoo, Illinois 30 34 6  (1 dies)
Louisa Chandler * Early 1846 Nauvoo, Illinois 23 34 0
Marian Ross 19 Feb 1852 Salt Lake City 22 40 6  (1 dies)
Sarah L. Lewis ** 21 Jan 1853 Birmingham, England 21 41 1  (dies)
Juliett Ann Phelps 14 Dec 1855 Fillmore, Utah 16 44 7  all live
Eliza Crooks 24 Jul 1857 Liverpool, England 28 45 5  (4 die)
Margaret Graham 28 Dec 1868 Salt Lake City, UT 16 57 3  all live

* Died June 1846.  ** Died 27 Sep 1855. † Children in brackets died before reaching maturity.

There was extreme pressure on Sarah’s ability to tolerate the effects of polygamy on her own marriage. For example, Orson married his fourth wife just ten days before Sarah gave birth to their fifth child, Vanson, who died eighteen months later. Eleven days after Orson’s third wife Mary gave birth to a daughter, Sarah’s own fifteen month old baby girl died. Sarah had to contend with her own grief alongside the joy of her ‘sister’ wife. Sarah lost six children during her marriage. Then, a twenty-one-year-old daughter died the year after Sarah left Orson. It compared with a total of eight child deaths between seven of the other wives. Five of Sarah’s children survived to enjoy adulthood. Orson’s other wives provided him with a further thirty offspring who survived beyond their youth.

Sarah had reason to be suspicious of her husband’s integrity in matters of marriage. Two wives were acquired when Orson was on missions to England in 1853 and 1857. He illegally married them there and took them back to Utah as his wives. Mary Ann, who Orson married in Nauvoo in 1845, had her first child just six months later. If the date is correct, was she already pregnant from an earlier relationship, or was Orson the pre-marital father? It is also suspicious that wives nine and ten both had their first babies exactly thirty-seven weeks (eight and a half months) after their marriages to Orson.

The average gestation period is forty weeks. Whilst thirty-seven to forty-two weeks is the possible span for normal gestation, exactly thirty-seven weeks is actually premature and is extremely unusual. Two in a row would be highly unlikely. Either both women conceived on their wedding nights and then delivered prematurely or Orson was having premarital sex with them.

There was an accepted practice, used if a man converted a potential new wife while he was away from Utah. The couple would make private covenants with each other, which would allow them to sleep together. They would later formally marry in Salt Lake City. This might have explained the case of Eliza Crooks, but for family history indicating that Orson had illegally married her in England. (See pp.176-179 for Eliza’s ultimate heartbreaking demise which was due to Orson’s neglect). It doesn’t explain the case of Margaret Graham either.

Orson married Margaret in 1868 when he was fifty-seven. She was sixteen years old and her first baby was born when she was seventeen. By the time Orson was about to marry sixteen-year-old Margaret, Sarah could take no more of his polygamy and she left Orson. He would be exempt from guilt and Sarah would be under condemnation according to ‘The Law of Sarah’ (See Ch: 1 Item 5 & Ch: 3) when he married Margaret, which is an irony, considering his first wife’s name.

Sarah was fifty-one years old and could no longer bear children. Of the twelve children she had by Orson, six were then living. Orson had spent many years away on missions while Sarah mothered their children alone. She put up with constant introductions of new and often much younger wives when he was home. Their marriage came to an abrupt end in 1868 when Orson said he wanted to spend a week in turn, with each of the five plural wives who were then still with him. It was not enough for Sarah to only have his company each sixth week. They had been apart for over a third of the previous thirty years while he was away on missions. The rest of the time he had been courting, marrying and having children with a succession of much younger women. As Sarah became older, she felt increasingly lonely and completely unfulfilled in her marriage.

In an 1877 interview Sarah said:

“Here was my husband, grey headed, taking to his bed young girls in mockery of marriage. Of course there could be no joy for him in such an intercourse except the indulgence of his fanaticism and of something else, perhaps, which I hesitate to mention.” (Van Wagoner 1989:99-100).         

After all those years, having initially fended off Smith’s advances and then tolerated her own husband’s conversion to polygamy, Sarah had finally reached her limit and could take no more abuse. She turned her back on polygamy, her husband and the Church. Enough was finally more than enough for intrepid Sarah. She lamented in an interview that polygamy was the:

“…direst curse with which a people or a nation could be afflicted. …It completely demoralizes good men, and makes bad men correspondingly worse. As for the women – well, God help them! First wives it renders desperate, or else heart broken, mean spirited creatures; and it almost unsexes some of the other women, but not all of them, for plural wives have their sorrows too.” (Van Wagoner: 1989:100. c: Froiseth 1884:38-40).

Pratt’s last plural wife, Margaret Graham, who was possibly ‘the straw that broke the camels back’ for Sarah, had divorced Orson by 1880. She married Joseph Dickman and had a further five children by him. If Orson had not married that final time, and had he agreed to spend more time with Sarah, making her feel special as first wife, perhaps Sarah would have still been with him.

During an interview on 21 May 1886 in which she described the activity of Joseph Smith, Sarah admitted to her earlier naivety. Following a statement confirming that Smith visited “houses of ill fame” and particularly a Mrs. White “dozens of times” in the early years, Sarah goes on to say that after the shock of Smith’s advances, she actually did tell someone:

“When Joseph made his dastardly attempt on me, I went to Mrs. Harris to unbosom my grief to her. To my utter astonishment, she said, laughing heartily: “How foolish you are! I don’t see anything so horrible in it. Why, I AM HIS MISTRESS SINCE FOUR YEARS!”” (Van Wagoner 1989:99-100).

Lucinda Harris (See Ch. 10: Section 1) had indeed been Smith’s mistress for three or four years at that time. No marriage ceremony is documented. (See Appendices A & B, Wife 3). Sarah goes on to describe in depth, the same details Bennett recorded. It included the fact that Smith’s impudence to her was in front of Bennett when Bennett took some sewing to her. The accounts are very similar. Sarah also mentions a visit from Joseph Smith III who questioned her regarding polygamy. He still did not believe that his father had ever practiced polygamy at all. He asked Sarah, if his father did so, where was the progeny? Sarah answered that his father “…had mostly intercourse with married women, and as to single ones, Dr. Bennett was always on hand, when anything happened”. This confirms other stories and rumours concerning abortions being undertaken by Bennett for Smith. Sarah noticed a long metal instrument Bennett had in his coat sleeve and she asked what it was for. Bennett replied: “Oh, a little job for Joseph; one of his women is in trouble.”

Sarah also stated that:

“You should bear in mind that Joseph did not think of a marriage or sealing ceremony for many years. He used to state to his intended victims, as he did to me: ‘God does not care if we have a good time, if only other people do not know it.’ He only introduced a marriage ceremony when he had found out that he could not get certain women without it. I think Louisa Beeman was the first case of this kind.” (Wyl 1886: Vol 1: 60-63).

It may well be that Louisa Beaman was the first to obtain such a ceremony. I could find no documented evidence of any actual marriage ceremonies before hers. (See: Appendix A).

  1. Jane Law

William Law was born 8 September 1809 in County Tyrone, Northern Ireland. He moved to Ontario, Canada where he married Jane Silverthon in 1833, when he was twenty-four and she was nineteen years old. The couple were converted to Mormonism by John Taylor and Almon W. Babbitt in 1839.

William became Second Counsellor to Joseph Smith on 24 January 1841, remaining in office until 8 January 1844. He was suddenly dropped, following a face off with Smith, when Law insisted that Smith abandon the practice of polygamy. William and Jane Law were excommunicated on 18 April 1844 for “unchristianlike conduct”. William and his wife Jane were completely opposed to polygamy from the beginning. They had believed Smith when he insisted that polygamy didn’t exist, until the new revelation proved otherwise. When William saw the July 1843 revelation in the autumn of that year, he told Smith he could not accept it. Law was very close to Emma Smith who confided in William that she also despised the things Joseph was up to. She especially struggled with the young wives her husband kept in the house.

In late 1843, Smith tried his luck with Jane. This may have been motivated more by the idea of bringing William into line than Smith’s desire for Jane as a plural wife. (See: Van Wagoner 1989: Ch 6). This mistake would prove to be the catalyst that led to the demise of the Smith brothers. It was only a few months later when the Laws purchased their printing press and published the Nauvoo Expositor to expose Smith’s polygamous activity. (The Nauvoo Expositor was four pages long. A scanned copy of the original newspaper is available in full online at: http://www.solomonspalding.com/docs/exposit1.htm).

Following such embarrassing exposure, Smith was frantic and he became desperate to put a stop to matters, before more damning evidence could be published in the next issue. The City Council met in two sessions for over six hours on a Saturday and again for seven hours the following Monday, before arriving at a decision to destroy the press. Apologists argue that the length of these meetings proves that the Smiths did not try to convince or manipulate the Council, each individual deciding and voting as he chose. They are wrong. The basis of initial debate concerning the character of the Laws, which lasted for several hours, came directly from the Smiths. The Laws were accused of: “oppressing the poor, counterfeiting, theft, conspiracy to murder, seduction and adultery.” This is ignored by apologists. These allegations were all unfounded and were actually the things that Joseph Smith was guilty of himself.

Also ignored by apologists, are outright lies by Hyrum and Joseph Smith who declared to the Council that the revelation that had been read (now Section 132) about a multiplicity of wives was, according to Hyrum: “…in answer to a question concerning things which transpired in former days, and had no reference to the present time.” Joseph said: “They make it a criminality for a man to have a wife on the earth while he has one in heaven… the order [was] in ancient days, having nothing to do with [t]he present times.” (Van Wagoner 1989:68). Both brothers individually, knowingly and deliberately lied to the Council in order to get the action they required. It took a total of thirteen hours to win the Council over to the Smiths’ way of thinking. For apologists to argue otherwise in the face of such evidence is proof only of their own delusional state and they cannot be taken seriously.

As Mayor, Joseph Smith had a strong voice in the City Council. It was Hyrum Smith who introduced the idea of destroying the Law’s printing press rather than issuing legal proceedings for the claimed libel. The statements made in the Expositor were actually true, a fact that also seems to have escaped the notice of apologists. The Smiths, knowing the truth, had the legal and moral responsibility to dissuade the Council from the action finally decided upon. Nevertheless, Hyrum proposed that the press be destroyed and eventually almost everyone went along with the idea. The Smiths controlled the decision. They manipulated the Council for thirteen hours with lies and deception.

The coerced vote instigated not only an illegal act but one which violated the very constitution. It was therefore viewed as treason, for which the Smith brothers were arrested and charged. The brothers paid very dearly for it before they could be tried in court. The root cause of the problem lay in Smith’s inability to control his insatiable obsession with women. Had Smith not made advances towards Jane Law, perhaps the sequence of events which followed would never have happened and he may have lived a little longer. His eventual downfall and death were the result of his lust for women, his extravagant lies to conceal the facts and his unlawful action against people who exposed the truth.

William Law started his own reformed Mormon Church. It turned out to be a short lived venture but they held a meeting, with some three-hundred people attending, just before the Laws published the Nauvoo Expositor. Joseph Smith sent Sidney Rigdon to try to persuade William Law not to publish. Law recorded in his diary that he told Rigdon:

“If they wanted peace they could have it on the following conditions. That Joseph Smith would acknowledge publicly that he had taught and practised the doctrine of plurality of wives, that he brought a revelation supporting the doctrine, and that he should own the whole system (revelation and all) to be from Hell.” (Van Wagoner 1989:57-58 c: William Law Diary 13 May 1844).

Verse 51 of the polygamy revelation concerns Emma Smith and is covered in Chapter 3. (p.59). According to some reports, Emma had suggested that Law should be her spiritual husband in order to get even with her own adulterous husband. (Van Wagoner 1989:57-58). William Law certainly had no notion of such an idea, as he states regarding “swapping wives” that “Joseph Smith never proposed anything of the kind to me or my wife”. Law then goes on to confirm that Joseph did offer to furnish Emma someone as a substitute for him “on condition that she would forever stop her opposition to polygamy and permit him to enjoy his young wives in peace and keep some of them in her house, and to be well treated etc.”. It is clear that Law did not know that both Emma and Joseph may have held him in mind as that potential substitute. (The Daily Tribune. SLC. Tuesday 3 Jul 1887. Letter 1. Shullsburg. Wis. 7 Jan 1887. William Law).

Whatever really happened, Law eventually snapped. He had put up with enough of Smith:

“[Joseph] ha[s] lately endeavored to seduce my wife, and ha[s] found her a virtuous woman.” (Van Wagoner 1989:67 c: William Law diary 13 May 1844).

The Laws could not accept polygamy. They had accepted Joseph Smith’s denials and published proclamations that monogamy was the only form of approved marriage. They would not consider now joining a secret circle that perpetuated such lies whilst privately living the principle. William claimed that Smith had gone to his home in the night while he was away. Smith declared to Jane that God had commanded him to take spiritual wives to add to his glory. Jane confirmed the story, adding that Smith had asked her to give him half her love and keep half for her husband. Her refusal resulted in Smith considering the couple apostate. He accused Jane of speaking evil, slandering him and lying about him without cause. The guilty Smith had been ready and liberal with his public retribution of an innocent woman.

  1. Nancy Rigdon

Sidney Rigdon, a former Baptist and a Cambellite minister, joined the Church in September 1830, along with his wife Phebe (Brooks). Rigdon combined his congregation (as well as his ideas) with Smith’s and became his First Counsellor on 18 March 1833. He was excommunicated 8 September 1844, following Smith’s death, during the succession debacle. Rigdon claimed the right to succeed Joseph Smith as President of the Church but his bid failed when Brigham Young and the twelve apostles succeeded. Rigdon in turn excommunicated the twelve and continued with a ‘Rigdonite’ Mormon Church.

The Rigdons had a large family. In April 1842, Smith took a strong liking to their nineteen year old daughter Nancy, so he took his chances with her. He invited her to meet him at the home of Orson Hyde, above the printing office. Hyde was away on a mission to Palestine and Smith had moved Hyde’s wife Marinda there, where she was temporarily living in sin with Smith’s secretary, Willard Richards. (See Ch.10 Section 3: Marinda Nancy Johnson). It was about that time when Joseph Smith married Marinda Hyde himself. (See Appendix A). Smith took Nancy Rigdon into a room, locked the door behind them “…and then stated to her that he had had an affection for her for several years, and wished that she should be his”. (Van Wagoner 1994:295). Forewarned by Dr. Bennett, Nancy refused, asserting that she would only ever marry a single man. Smith’s real mistake with Nancy came the following day, when he wrote her a letter which is still in evidence.

Nancy told her father what had happened. He was furious and immediately sent for Smith. George Robinson, Nancy’s brother-in-law was there when Smith arrived. George later “wrote to a friend that Joseph at first denied everything, but when Rigdon thrust the letter in his face, he broke down and admitted the truth, lamely excusing himself by saying he had merely been testing Nancy’s virtue”. (Brodie 1963:311). In 1905, a series of letters between Joseph F. Smith Jr. (who later become tenth prophet) and Mr. Evans of the RLDS Church, were printed in a booklet entitled Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage. In it, Joseph F. Smith Jr. attempted to prove polygamy was indeed practiced by Joseph Smith. This was something the RLDS Church was still refuting. Joseph F. Smith Jr. obtained an affidavit from Nancy’s living brother, John W. Rigdon which confirmed the details George had given. John also affirmed that after a few days had passed, Smith returned to see his father, when ‘matters were satisfactorily adjusted between them and there the matter ended’. (Smith, J.F. 1905:82-83).

These are some extracts from the lengthy love letter Smith sent to Nancy. Judging by all the other women Joseph Smith bedded when they said yes and threatened when they said no, this was certainly no ‘test’ of Nancy’s virtue.

That which is wrong under one circumstance, may be, and often is, right under another.

Whatever God requires is right, no matter what it is, although we may not see the reason thereof till long after the events transpire.

Everything that God gives us is lawful and right; and it is proper that we should enjoy His gifts and blessings whenever and wherever He is disposed to bestow…

But in obedience there is joy and peace unspotted, unalloyed; and as God has designed our happiness…

He never will institute an ordinance or give a commandment to His people that is not calculated in its nature to promote that happiness which He has designed, and which will not end in the greatest amount of good and glory to those who become the recipients of his law and ordinances.

Blessings offered, but rejected, are no longer blessings, but become like the talent hid in the earth by the wicked and slothful servant;…

Be wise today; ’tis madness to defer: Next day the fatal precedent may plead. Thus on till wisdom is pushed out of time Into eternity.

Our heavenly Father is more liberal in His views, and boundless in His mercies and blessings, than we are ready to believe or receive; and, at the same time, is more terrible to the workers of iniquity, more awful in the executions of His punishments, and more ready to detect every false way, than we are apt to suppose Him to be. (Emphasis added). (See Appendix M for complete letter and references).

After the entreaties, comes the psychology of the fear factor. If Nancy refuses, God will consider her wicked and slothful. God is very liberal on the one hand and will allow adultery which she will really enjoy if she accepts Smith. On the other hand, if she declines, she is of course wicked. God’s punishments for refusal will be more terrible than she could ever imagine.

  1. More Refusals

Smith approached several other women who turned him down. It seems he asked all and sundry to marry him. At least fifteen other women reportedly refused Smith, turning down his illicit proposals. William Clayton wanted to marry Lydia Moon but he had already married two of her sisters, Ruth and Margaret, as his first and second wives. Smith told him God’s law was that you could only marry two women from any one family. The truth was that Smith wanted Lydia for himself. She refused Smith, preferring to stay in the company of her sisters who had already married Clayton. Of course, Clayton may have already proposed to Lydia, not expecting Smith to deny the request. The idea of only two women from one family was not perpetuated and there are several later examples of three or more women from the same family marrying the same man. For example, Apostle Amasa Lyman married three of the Partridge sisters, plus a fourth one posthumously.

Smith also had no success with the following women, several of whom were already married:

Rachel Ivins Grant; Cordelia C. Morley Cox; Esther Johnson; Leon Cannon Taylor; Eliza Winters; Melissa Schindle; Emeline White; Mrs. Robert Foster; Pamela Michael; Lucy Smith Milligan; Athalia RigdonMiss Marks (William Marks’ daughter); Lovina Smith (daughter of Joseph’s brother Hyrum); Caroline Grant Smith (wife of Joseph’s brother William). (Compton 1997:633-634).

All of these women refused Joseph Smith’s immoral advances. There were undoubtedly other unrecorded proposals and refusals.