Mormon Church Admits Smith Had Dozens of Wives

The Mormon church has now officially admitted what it never had before, that founder Joseph Smith had as many as 40 wives. The only thing remotely surprising about this announcement is that it was made at all, not that the substance of it is — finally — accurate.

Mormon leaders have acknowledged for the first time that the church’s founder and prophet, Joseph Smith, portrayed in church materials as a loyal partner to his loving spouse Emma, took as many as 40 wives, some already married and one only 14 years old.

The church’s disclosures, in a series of essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history at a time when church members are increasingly encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the Internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware that Smith’s successor, Brigham Young, practiced polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth about Smith.

“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues.

She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief in which the first stage is denial, and the second is anger. Members are saying on blogs and social media, “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love,” Ms. Jensen said.

Wait, a church lied to people to paint a rosy picture of its own history? What’s next, the pope admitting that he’s Catholic? A bear proverbially shitting in the woods? All of this was easy to keep under wraps when it took serious effort for the church’s members to discover the truth, but with the advent of the internet such information takes only a few seconds on Google and the click of a mouse.

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  • laurentweppe

    What’s next, the pope admitting that he’s Catholic?

    Wait until the pope aknowledge that women played an essential role in the early Church: the freakout will be glorious

  • raven

    I’d say Joseph Young was an underachiever.

    Brigham Young had 55 wives, while Joseph Smith only managed 40.

    But Smith had a good excuse. He was dead early, killed by a mob of xians.

  • Chiroptera

    …but with the advent of the internet such information takes only a few seconds on Google and the click of a mouse.

    Well, only if you don’t really care whether the information is accurate or not — being exposed to the constant lies and propaganda of the right wing and the Christianists, we should all be aware of that. To make sure the information is actually believable can take a few more minutes if we know reliable sources to use to verify the information, and maybe much, much longer when we have to do more research to know which internet sources are reliable.

    On the other hand, if people never, ever heard of such a thing before, then, yeah, being exposed to the possibility that everything you thought you knew might be wrong — that takes just a few seconds.

  • raven

    She said the reaction of some Mormons to the church’s disclosures resembled the five stages of grief …

    Oh FFS. Good Cthulhu.

    1. This wasn’t news. It wasn’t a secret. It’s been common knowledge since Joseph Smith was killed by a mob a century and a half ago.

    2. Those Mormons that didn’t know it must have spent their entire lives not reading anything, watching anything, or using the internet. It’s a cult thing I guess.

    3. Polygamy is still alive and well in Utah. There are an estimated 60,000 of them in dozens of spinoff sects. They are frequently in the news there. Up until recently, the various polygamy factions used to fight wars among themselves that killed dozens and dozens of people. These days they settle for welfare fraud, various scams, and the odd case of incest.

  • Childermass

    I wonder if there are any Mormons who attacked Mohammed for the number and ages of his wives? It would be funny if say Glenn Beck had.

    Off topic,

    A woman who condemned a European Space Agency man’s sexism (shirt with barely-dressed women is his work attire) has been getting really nasty messages from men:

  • doublereed

    Yea, I’ve always wondered how the Mormon church portrays itself. The con artistry, the polygamy, and the racism in particular.

  • busterggi

    Same Mormons that claim marriage is between one man & one woman of course.

  • eoraptor


    My mother’s family is Mormon all the way back to the founding of the church, and I’m probably related to half the people in Utah. I’ve always known Joe was a polygamist. I’m not sure I ever knew the exact number, but that was more because I didn’t give a tinker’s damn.

  • felidae

    Note to Joseph Smith: its OK if you want chase pussy, just don’t claim that god told you to do it

  • jason the cripple

    I have no idea why anyone is freaking out about this. I was raised Mormon, and we all knew that Smith had multiple wives. They of course gave us the B.S. explanation that he did it because their husbands had been killed by Mormon haters.

    When are they going to admit that the reason he was arrested when he was killed was because he was committing fraud, not because of religious persecution.

  • billdaniels

    One of his wives was a distant cousin of mine. According to Fawn Brodie, a Mormon who wrote a biography of Smith titled No Man Knows My History, says that she may have had a child with him. One of Joseph’s friends in Nauvoo was Dr John Bennett who was accused of performing abortions. That might explain the fact that none of his other wives had children.

  • John Pieret

    practically perfect prophet

    The alliteration only makes it funnier.

  • iangould

    “When are they going to admit that the reason he was arrested when he was killed was because he was committing fraud, not because of religious persecution.”

    Yep, most of the lynch mob were Mormons who’d been investors in a fraudulent bank scheme Smith was running.

  • lorn

    In my experience people within a religion can be quite narrowly focused upon certain parts of that religion while remaining blissfully unaware of parts that seem to contradict the framing of their belief even as those parts are hidden in plain sight. I’ve shocked Christians who claimed to be well versed in the Bible by pointing out that the Jesus in the Bible was a devout and practicing Jew.

    It is pretty obvious if you look up the verses about how Jesus made sacrifices and observer holy days but somehow none of this sinks in.

    It is pretty funny to see a person who hates Jews realize that when they kneel in front of a crucifix they are bowing to a Jew.

  • dingojack

    See – see! Gay marriage causes polygamy, incest and hebephila (it’s just that it occurs 150 years in the past is all).



  • http://dontlinkmebro F [i’m not here, i’m gone]

    People get pissed when their little stories get retconned. (Even if to reflect a reality they should damn well already know.)