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Reluctant Polygamist: Preface


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This is a discussion of the preface to Meg Stout's book, Reluctant Polygamist.

There are widely divergent versions of Joseph Smith, from righteous man second only to Christ (e.g., John Taylor, D&C 135) to evil villain second only to Lucifer (online commentary for just about any Mormon-themed news story).

Stout first encountered troublesome possibilities regarding Joseph Smith when she was a teen, reading Nightfall at Nauvoo. She stayed within the Mormon faith tradition, but harbored major doubts about Joseph Smith and the religion he had “restored.” Even after eventually coming to peace with Mormonism as a religion, Stout could not reconcile the stories of Joseph Smith’s polygamy with the loving God she knew.

In 2001 a friend requested Stout present a vignette on a famous Mormon woman. Selecting an ancestor, Stout realized that her own ancestry contained women at the very beginning and very end of Mormon polygamy. She felt she had to write about these women, but dreaded the task.

Over the years, Stout realized her ancestor who was Joseph Smith’s plural wife ought to have conceived before 1845 if she had been engaged in intimacy with either her public husband or Joseph Smith. Around this time, Stout learned that DNA research has failed to confirm Joseph engendered any of the children of his plural wives.

As Joseph said, “I often said to myself: What is to be done? Who of all these parties are right; or, are they all wrong together?”

Considering the grossly different historical interpretations of Joseph’s life, Stout devoted herself to finding a common truth that could explain all the evidence. Appendix A contains a summary of the principles Stout used in her efforts. 

I would request that comments for this thread focus on the preface. The book is available at Amazon.com or at this link:

http://www.millennialstar.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Reluctant-Polygamist-5th-edition.pdf

 

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Wow, I guess I can say you know what I'm going through!  My problem over JS, and it being the reason for doubting or having a faith crisis, has lasted for years ever since reading about Joseph's particular way of living polygamy.  

 

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Meg,

    I wish you luck in this endeavor, but I fear that you will not be able to change any minds. Your information on Elvira Annie Cowles not bearing a child for nearly three years after her "traditional" marriage to Jonathan Holmes is interesting to say the least.

    I fall into the camp that believes that Joseph Smith was and is a prophet of God and that he was commanded to restore the practice of polygamy, but, at his own admission, was reluctant at first, but finally accepted it, after a little persuasion from an angel.

   My testimony of Joseph and the Gospel is not based upon the history of the church. I was taught about polygamy while very young but did not know about the so called polyandry until maybe twenty-five years ago. My own reading into the matter led me to believe that those polyandrous" sealings were for eternity only and did not involve sex. Subsequent research and DNA results have lined up with my own "TBM" viewpoints.

Glenn

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54 minutes ago, Glenn101 said:

Meg,

    I wish you luck in this endeavor, but I fear that you will not be able to change any minds.

Hi Glenn101,

Thank you for starting the thread (citing my live logging of the MHA session regarding Josephine Lyon and DNA) that informed me that mormondialogue.org was a thing.

One of the arguments people have used to bash me over on that thread is the idea that "marriage is marriage and that means marital sex when people are behind closed doors."

Yet in the case of Jonathan Holmes and Elvira Annie Cowles, we have Jonathan's (admittedly late) story to his children and neighbors that he was not Elvira's husband until after Joseph's death, despite the ceremony Joseph Smith performed uniting Jonathan and Elvira as husband and wife on December 1, 1842. Jonathan and Elvira were together behind closed doors for months prior to her reported sealing to Joseph Smith on June 1, 1842.

As far as Joseph and opportunities to consummate the sealing with Elvira, she was the governess to his children, and the children's bedroom in the Mansion House was adjacent to the bedroom where Emma and Joseph slept. Further, the Holmes cabin was located only two blocks from the Smith homestead and even closer to the Mansion house.

Elvira is one of those who told her children that she was Joseph's wife and had lived with him as such, though the child who recorded that testimony was a morphine-addicted old woman at the time she committed that story to paper in the 1930s.

Here we run into the quandary of fertility. Joseph's virility is established in the many children he engendered with Emma Hale. There is no question (based on the DNA spotlight that has shone on that family) that Joseph produced Emma's children who lived to bear children of their own. By extension, there is no reason to doubt Joseph fathered Emma's other children.

Elvira Annie Cowles conceived her first child in February 1845, months after Joseph's death and coincidentally the month that Emma asked Jonathan to help relocate Joseph Smith's remains. I'll get back to why that is significant when we talk about Emma's Ultimatum, if I'm still bothering to blog here by then.

Jonathan left with the Mormon Battalion in July 1846, so there was no opportunity for Elvira to conceive with Jonathan until he returned to Salt Lake City in September 1848. Elvira's second daughter was born 40 weeks after Jonathan returned from his Mormon Battalion service.

Elvira went on to conceive children every two years thereafter until she was 43, when she gave birth to her daughter Emma Lucinda Holmes, who is my ancestor.

The case history of Jonathan and Elvira demonstrates that in at least one case the legal husband claimed he had not been consummating his marriage from December 1, 1842 to June 27, 1844.

The marital situation of Jonathan, Elvira, and Joseph is the Rosetta Stone I have used to postulate regarding the rest of Joseph's plural marriages. This is the reason that I have focused on the lack of DNA evidence regarding children allegedly engendered by Joseph Smith. I am merely postulating (in this point) that the rather clear lack of sex occurring prior to 1845 in the marriages of Elvira Holmes might be extensible to other plural marriages involving Elvira's husband Joseph Smith.

5 hours ago, Tacenda said:

Wow, I guess I can say you know what I'm going through!  My problem over JS, and it being the reason for doubting or having a faith crisis, has lasted for years ever since reading about Joseph's particular way of living polygamy.  

 

Hi Tacenda! Yes, I do know what you're going through. Sam Taylor did a great job (in Nightfall at Nauvoo) of portraying the Joseph described by Brodie, Bennett, and Wyl. Not a book I would recommend to a 14-year-old who isn't planning of leaving the LDS Church.

Edited by Meg Stout
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9 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

I will bow out of this... I believe Meg's heart is in the right place, and she is quite good at finding data. It is the use of the data that I find wholly unsatisfactory.

Hi John,

Thank you for the parting comments commending my ability to find data.

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6 hours ago, Meg Stout said:

One of the arguments people have used to bash me over on that thread is the idea that "marriage is marriage and that means marital sex when people are behind closed doors."

Meg, I haven't seen anyone here post that they believe Joseph consummated all of his plural marriages.

Your theory appears to be that Joseph intended to consummate some of his marriages but just never got around to doing this before he died.  Is that correct?

Edited by JulieM
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15 minutes ago, Meg Stout said:

Hi John,

Thank you for the parting comments commending my ability to find data.

It's nothing personal, Meg, just a fundamental disagreement with you over how to use evidence and to what end. Cheers.

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7 minutes ago, JulieM said:

I agree completely with your assessment. 

I mainly don't care for the way Meg throws out direct testimony from women (Joseph's wives) and first hand witnesses.  She believes they either just remembered wrong or were lying.  I find her difficult to have an honest discussion with on here because she continually does this when presented with evidence and documentation that disputes what she's written.

I also think her theory about Joseph needing to live polygamy so he could save the poor, weak women in Nauvoo from the evil Bennett and his Strikers sex ring is absurd.  Her opinion of these good women must be pretty low if she believes they had to have another man save them because they just couldn't resist succumbing to Bennett's or his Striker's seductions.  

I've read Meg's blog (recent posts and back awhile). I feel she does do some good research but she makes the mistake of spinning it into wishful fiction to support what she needs to believe and then tries to pass it off as being definite and factual.  

If her book is written as she writes her blog, I have no interest in reading it.  But I know some seem to enjoy her writings.

I will admit that theory that Joseph's marriages were a response to the "Bennett sex ring" is indeed absurd and wholly unsupported by the evidence. I'm reminded of a song lyric: "Every girl that I've seen since, looks just like you, when I squint." You really have to do a lot of squinting and creative use of evidence to make that theory work. 

 

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I would like to see the quote from Johnathan Holmes' story to his children abt not being her husband, etc.

Question to Meg Stout:  It would appear that the only thing you identify as objective evidence is the existense of children.  If I am wrong, can you please state what else you would label "objective evidence" and why you believe this standard is appropriate for historic work?

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Well I'm glad you pursued the topic, with vigor.  It can't be easy to resolve the whys of what people of the past did without considerable disagreement particularly when it comes to difficult topics of religion and polygamy.  Kudos for trying.  Ijust continue to feel very strongly that it doesn't matter one bit regarding why it was practiced if it didn't do any good at all.  And it didn't.  Even the environment of Nauvoo would have been different and there wouldn't have been the sex scandals there were, if no polygamy. 

 

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Btw, MS, if you would provide the quote itself with the quote's source with a link where possible to read in context or just a precise link to the quote itself in its original context so it is easy to find, that will fill one of the documentation requirements of the board and will save you and others posts having to ask and respond with that documentation.

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9 hours ago, Meg Stout said:

I would request that comments for this thread focus on the preface. The book is available at Amazon.com or at this link:

Meg, I went onto Amazon to look at the reviews for your book.  I find it a bit odd that all five of your 5 star reviews were written either on the same day (four of them), or the day before (the other one).  Did you ask these people to write reviews for you?

https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Polygamist-Joseph-Smith-Jr/dp/1530935156/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1466693341&sr=8-3&keywords=reluctant+polygamist

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3 minutes ago, ALarson said:

Meg, I went onto Amazon to look at the reviews for your book.  I find it a bit odd that all five of your 5 star reviews were written either on the same day (four of them), or the day before (the other one).  Did you ask these people to write reviews for you?

https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Polygamist-Joseph-Smith-Jr/dp/1530935156/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1466693341&sr=8-3&keywords=reluctant+polygamist

Soliciting reviews? I should have thought of that. :D

https://www.amazon.com/Heaven-Up-Here-John-Williams/dp/1105296946/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1466693737&sr=8-3&keywords=heaven+up+here

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7 minutes ago, ALarson said:

Meg, I went onto Amazon to look at the reviews for your book.  I find it a bit odd that all five of your 5 star reviews were written either on the same day (four of them), or the day before (the other one).  Did you ask these people to write reviews for you?

https://www.amazon.com/Reluctant-Polygamist-Joseph-Smith-Jr/dp/1530935156/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1466693341&sr=8-3&keywords=reluctant+polygamist

Either that or maybe they're all written by the same person using different accounts (if someone can get away with doing that there).  It is strange they were all written on the same day or a day's difference.

Edited by JulieM
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14 minutes ago, jkwilliams said:

Just thinking.  It appears her book was found on Amazon April 6, 2016.  It could be that the book was available and the first people got theirs at or near April 6th.  Then a month or so later they received a request from Amazon to write a review for the book.  I think it's worked that way for me--Amazon hits me up for a review for a book I ordered sometime after I ordered it.  maybe the Amazon notice was sent to all those who ordered the book, on the same day.  I imagine its all auto generated email requests maybe based on when the book was ordered. 

It'd be a shame if that's how it worked out and yet Meg is getting hassled about it here.  It'd have nothing to do with her and she might feel a bit a attacked by the questioning and justifiably so. 

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5 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Just thinking.  It appears her book was found on Amazon April 6, 2016.  It could be that the book was available and the first people got theirs at or near April 6th.  Then a month or so later they received a request from Amazon to write a review for the book.  I think it's worked that way for me--Amazon hits me up for a review for a book I ordered sometime after I ordered it.  maybe the Amazon notice was sent to all those who ordered the book, on the same day.  I imagine its all auto generated email requests maybe based on when the book was ordered. 

It'd be a shame if that's how it worked out and yet Meg is getting hassled about it here.  It'd have nothing to do with her and she might feel a bit a attacked by the questioning and justifiably so. 

Not meaning to hassle anyone, just thought it was funny. I have a warped sense of humor.

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8 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

Just thinking.  It appears her book was found on Amazon April 6, 2016.  It could be that the book was available and the first people got theirs at or near April 6th.  Then a month or so later they received a request from Amazon to write a review for the book.  I think it's worked that way for me--Amazon hits me up for a review for a book I ordered sometime after I ordered it.  maybe the Amazon notice was sent to all those who ordered the book, on the same day.  I imagine its all auto generated email requests maybe based on when the book was ordered. 

So, all 5 reviewers bought her book on the same day, got a reminder from Amazon to review it on the same day and then no other reviews since?  Maybe.  

I really don't care if she contacted some who she knew read her book (if she'd received no reviews on Amazon) and then requested that they write a review.

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5 minutes ago, JulieM said:

So, all 5 reviewers bought her book on the same day, got a reminder from Amazon to review it on the same day and then no other reviews since?  Maybe.  

I really don't care if she contacted some who she knew read her book (if she'd received no reviews on Amazon) and then requested that they write a review.

I guess I don't care enough to even answer the question.  it seems like a suspicious thing to be concerned about and bring up here seeing as she already feels a little attacked.  It feels like we can be nicer to each other and just let things go, focus instead on the ideas.  But, why am I trying to police this?  Have fun.  Best to you. 

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11 minutes ago, stemelbow said:

I guess I don't care enough to even answer the question.  it seems like a suspicious thing to be concerned about and bring up here seeing as she already feels a little attacked.  It feels like we can be nicer to each other and just let things go, focus instead on the ideas.  But, why am I trying to police this?  Have fun.  Best to you. 

I agree, stemmelbow.  I just purchase a lot of books on Amazon and always read the reviews (or at least many of them).  I normally read some 5 star reviews and then some of the lower star reviews for balance. I just found it curious how her's were all 5 star reviews that were written on or close to the same day and then no other reviews.  If she did make requests of people to write reviews on the same day, that is of course her right to do.  

.

Edited by ALarson
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2 hours ago, Calm said:

I would like to see the quote from Johnathan Holmes' story to his children abt not being her husband, etc.

It appears he made no statement about it.  The statements provided below state that Jonathan and Elvira were not married until after Joseph's death, so it's a bit confusing. 

This is what I found written in Meg's book about this:

Quote

 

Several known or possible victims of seduction were pregnant in 1842. Married men opened their households to at least three such women: Mary Clift, Sarah Peak [Noon], and Lucina Roberts [Johnston]. Jonathan Holmes, as a widower, would have been in a position to stand as public husband for one of these women so there would be no hint of impropriety. Yet he was assigned to Elvira rather than any of the several pregnant woman where the cover of a monogamous marriage could have been useful.

Though neither Jonathan nor Elvira ever wrote theirs was initially a pretend marriage, their descendants and neighbors would clearly indicate that the marriage between Jonathan and Elvira was not in force until after Joseph’s death.

In 1931 John Fish Wright’s son, William, brought a letter to LDS Church Headquarters. The letter read: “I was well acquainted with two of Joseph’s wives, LaVina and Eliza… 12 Before Joseph was shot, he asked Jonathan Holmes if he would marry and take care of LaVina, but that if LaVina wanted him to take care of her he would take her. He would fill that mission to please his Father in Heaven.” 13

Jonathan’s descendants, including daughter Phebe, clearly understood that it was only after Joseph’s death that Elvira had become Jonathan’s wife, “probably at his direction”:

“I heard my mother testify that she was indeed the Prophet Joseph Smith’s plural wife in life and lived with him as such during his lifetime. 14  The Prophet Joseph Smith held Jonathan H. Holmes in the highest regard and he acted as one of the ‘bodyguards’ of the prophet.” 15

“When Joseph Smith was martyred, [Jonathan with others] buried his body and later moved it to a more secure resting place. Certain it is that after the Prophet’s death, probably at his direction, my grandfather married one of his (Joseph Smith) plural wives, Elvira Annie Cowles Smith.” 16

After the martyrdom of Joseph and Hyrum Smith, Elvira Annie Cowles (Smith) married young widowed, Jonathan Harriman Holmes, who had served faithfully as a bodyguard of the prophet.” 17

 

Footnotes:

12 From use of “LaVina” for Elvira, it seems the person writing the letter tended to switch around sounds or words. The elided portion of the transcription reads “I came to Utah in ’69, and rented LaVina Holmes farm.” As John Fish Wright emigrated to Utah in 1852 as a ten-year-old boy, the sentence makes sense if it was supposed to read “I came to Utah and in ’69 rented LaVina Holmes farm.” John Fish Write came to Paradise, Cache County, Utah in 1869, after living elsewhere in Cache County, Utah. Jonathan Holmes had a daughter who lived in Millville, Cache County, Utah, just 10 miles north of Paradise, suggesting the “LaVina Holmes farm” was a place Elvira [Holmes] stayed, rather than owned.

13 D. Michael Quinn papers, Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Yale University, WA MSS S-2692. William Wright, Letter to unidentified addressee but stamped as received in the First Presidency Office on June 2, 1931. Cited by Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, Volume 1, p. 329.

14 Phebe’s belief that her mother lived with Joseph as a wife was likely formed in 1868, when Phebe was refusing to marry Job Welling, who had previously married her older sister. Elvira’s may have been assuring Phebe plural marriage was an appropriate form of marriage, rather than confirming that Elvira had engaged in conjugal relations with Joseph Smith.

15 Welling, Phebe Louisa Holmes, Feb 9, 1938, The Ancestors and Descendants of Job Welling : Utah Pioneer from England, 9 Jan 1833 – 7 Mar 1886, pp. 25

16 Welling, Milton H., Jan 25, 1938, The Job Welling Family Organization, The Ancestors and Descendants of Job Welling : Utah Pioneer from England, 9 Jan 1833 – 7 Mar 1886, p. 19.

17 Taylor, Roxie Welling, undated, The Job Welling Family Organization, The Ancestors and Descendants of Job Welling : Utah Pioneer from England, 9 Jan 1833 – 7 Mar 1886, pp. 20

 

 

Edited by ALarson
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11 hours ago, Meg Stout said:

This is a discussion of the preface to Meg Stout's book, Reluctant Polygamist.

There are widely divergent versions of Joseph Smith, from righteous man second only to Christ (e.g., John Taylor, D&C 135) to evil villain second only to Lucifer (online commentary for just about any Mormon-themed news story).

Stout first encountered troublesome possibilities regarding Joseph Smith when she was a teen, reading Nightfall at Nauvoo. She stayed within the Mormon faith tradition, but harbored major doubts about Joseph Smith and the religion he had “restored.” Even after eventually coming to peace with Mormonism as a religion, Stout could not reconcile the stories of Joseph Smith’s polygamy with the loving God she knew.

 

 

It would seem to me that the first opening paragraphs, make conflicting remarks, linked with conflicting ideals. First John Taylor, nor any other ever said that Joseph Smith was second only to Christ in righteous. Most certainly, Joseph who included int Doctrine and Covenants many of his own rebukes from God himself never did so either. John Taylor was listing the envents of Joseph's death, his accomplishments and his (John Taylor's) testimony of those events. This of course would certainly fall with his wheelhouse as founder and editor of the "Times and Seasons" (if memory serves). The term or comment, "...has done more, save Christ only, for the salvation of men in this world...", has nothing to do with degree of righteousness, but degree of accomplishment. 

Secondly, you are also using the practice of polygamy with wickedness and righteousness, and only as it relates to Joseph Smith and The Church. Polygamy has been practiced for thousands of years among both the wicked and the righteous. Abraham, Issac and Jacob, the righteous and chosen Patriarchs, and God's own chosen people. The "Loving God" of whom you speak has indeed and allowed and even commanded it's practice. Most if not all who speak of this topic do so through the lens of the Western Worldview, a worldview that God is not limited too or beholden too. I have never understood polygamy in any form, but I am a product (happily) of that same worldview. I find your story and topic fascinating, and I look forward to your commentary and the ensuing debate eagerly. I just thought it important that (for now) those two items to be addressed.

Now as for my opinion on the evidence, or lack of evidence concerning the staggering lack,of DNA evidence of any offspring from Joseph's DNA. For now at least, it is clear that Joseph was a polygamist, but certainly not to the,level or degree that latter LDS Prophets and Priesthood holders were, at least based on historical records. It often makes me wonder in Joseph's ideas and teachings may have differed in some ways than did others. I have spent many years debating this topic on a number of websites who decry every aspect of Joseph's life, none more than Polygamy. Once I asked the question, (to paraphrase) Joseph was being sealed to persons such as Helen Kimball at the age of 14, and at the same time women 10 to 15 years of his age..."Is it possible that many of these were just sealings and not polygamist marriages?". To a man and to a woman (all critics) the answer was the same. "Yes it is possible with some of the older women, but not the young girls". I think that answer says more about the person answering, than it does about the "practice of polygamy" or the "righteousness of the man". 

Thoughts? 

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2 hours ago, Calm said:

Btw, MS, if you would provide the quote itself with the quote's source with a link where possible to read in context or just a precise link to the quote itself in its original context so it is easy to find, that will fill one of the documentation requirements of the board and will save you and others posts having to ask and respond with that documentation.

Calm, to add to what I posted above, here is a reference for Jonathan and Elvira's marriage on December 1, 1842 (scroll down to page 37):

https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE919644
 

Quote

 

HOLMES, Jonathan Harriman

Bom : 11 March 1806 in Rowley, Essex, Massachusetts Son of Nathaniel Holmes and Sarah Harriman

Married: 1 December 1842 to Elvira Ann Cowles at Nauvoo by Joseph Smith

Died: 18 August 1880 in Farmington, Davis, Utah 

 

But we still have no statement from either Jonathan or Elvira regarding him not being her husband or any stories they told to their children about this (that I can find).  There could be any number of reasons why she didn't conceive right away, IMO.

Here is what Brian Hales states about their marriage:

Quote

It seems to corroborate that Jonathan may have been given a “mission” to marry Elvira and “take care of her” in a legal pretend marriage. After the martyrdom, Jonathan would have been free to take Elivira as his own wife. She did not conceive her first child until seven months after Joseph’s death. The couple went on to have a total of five children together.

http://en.fairmormon.org/Joseph_Smith/Polygamy/Plural_wives/Elvira_Annie_Cowles_Holmes#cite_note-2

If Elvira told her daughter that she was Joseph's wife and lived with him as such, then that very likely could explain her not conceiving a child with Jonathan (if her marriage to him was a "legal pretend marriage" as Hales writes above).

Here's the statement of her daughter (Phebe):

Quote

“I heard my mother testify that she was indeed the Prophet’s (Joseph Smith) plural wife in life and lived with him as such during his lifetime.”

Phebe Louisa Holmes Welling, n.a., The Ancestors and Descendants of Job Welling (Bountiful, Utah: Job Welling Family Organization, 1982), 25

.

Edited by ALarson
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