The lesson we study today has some of the most transcendent and astonishing teachings that Joseph Smith gave us, opening our ideas to what really is in the eternities and how we can obtain the blessings we desire.
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The lesson we study today has some of the most transcendent and astonishing teachings that Joseph Smith gave us, opening our ideas to what really is in the eternities and how we can obtain the blessings we desire. We will also be talking about what is sometimes a challenging principle, that has puzzled many for a lifetime, and at least once, led me to tears—polygamy. Stay tuned.
Hello, we’re Scot and Maurine Proctor and welcome to Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast where today we discuss Sections 129-132 of the Doctrine and Covenants, a scripture so rich that we could go on and on.
It is so good to get your Christmas shopping finished, early, and this year we suggest you give a habit. What do we mean by that? I have created the 2022 Kirtland Diary for Thoughts and Personal Revelation, which allows a space each day to write a thought that struck you, what you are grateful for, a scriptural insight. Or Maurine and I have used last year’s diary, to write each day the way we’ve seen the Lord’s hand in our life that day.
I just have to interrupt you here, because this is different than a regular journal. It invites you to look at your world differently. What really mattered to me today? how did I feel blessed? rather than something more mundane like I went to the movies! Each day I think, this is the thought, the insight I want to record.
With the Kirtland Diary, your writing is surrounded by my most intimate and moving pictures from the Kirtland era in church history, including the temple. Give the Kirtland diary to family members with your wish for them to record their thoughts. It is priced so you can give it friends and neighbors. Find it at latterdaysaintmag.com/Kirtland. That’s latterdaysaintmag/Kirtland.
Want to know more about heaven? In these next sections, we get glimpses. Joseph tells us in Section 129, about two types of beings in heaven. The first are resurrected personages having bodies of flesh and bone, and the other the spirits of just men made perfect, who have not yet been resurrected. This is a prelude, however, to the next thing taught, which is more rare knowledge, and therefore for a purpose. We know this section was given sometime before 27 June, 1839, because on that date Wilford Woodruff recorded it in his journal as the Prophet had revealed it to members of the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve before they left on their missions to England. Wilford Woodruff drew tiny symbolic keys by his recording.
Steven Harper notes, “In April 1842, [Joseph] introduced the principles recorded in [the section]— to the Relief Society. The following month he gave the Saints a temple preparation sermon, including the explanation that there are “certain signs and words by which false spirts and personages may be detected from true—which cannot be revealed to the Elders till the Temple is completed.” (Steven C. Harper, Making Sense of the Doctrine and Covenants). In May, a few of the Church leaders were given a temporary endowment in the top floor of his redbrick store.
In other words, Section 129 needs the addition of temple understanding to be fully clear, but its essence is how to detect a false messenger from a true one who claims to be representing God with message for you. This is something Joseph would have had to know, for we learned in Section 128, for instance that the devil had appeared to him on the banks of the Susquehanna disguised as an angel of light.
The instructions were offer to shake his hand. If he is an angel, “he will do so and you will feel his hand. If he be the spirit of a just man made perfect he will come in his glory; for that is the only way he can appear”, but he will not move. An interesting note here, is that a resurrected being can withhold his glory, but a just man made perfect cannot. Think of Christ on the road to Emmaus with his two traveling companions. He was a resurrected being, but they only saw him as a man, because He withheld His glory.
However, when the devil comes as an angel of light, seeking to deceive you, “he will offer his hand, and you will not feel anything; you may therefore detect him (vv. 5-8). This is a very esoteric piece of knowledge—unless you need it, which Joseph assumed his followers did. That gives you something to ponder.
More opens to our view in Section 130. On Saturday, 1 April 1843, Joseph Smith went to preach to a congregation of Saints in Ramus, taking along Orson Hyde and William Clayton to act as scribe. That morning, Orson Hyde preached to the congregation, taking as his text three scriptures and said that the Savior “will appear on a white horse as a warrior, and maybe we shall have some of the same spirit. Our God is a warrior. (John xiv, 23.) It is our privilege to have the Father and Son dwelling in our hearts.”
Joseph later wrote that after the morning meeting, “we dined with my sister Sophronia McCleary, when I told Elder Hyde that I was going to offer some corrections to his sermon this morning. He replied, “They shall be thankfully received.” That afternoon and evening in his talks he gave the information that became Section 130.
Joseph taught from the personal knowledge of having seen the Savior several times, “When the Savior shall appear we shall see him as he is. We shall see that he is a man like ourselves” (v.1). In other words, we are not of a different species than God. We are not His creatures, nor His subjects, nor His possessions, but His children at a different stage of progression. By the grace of God, we are in a developmental period to grow to be like Him, and become “partakers of the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4). That is much to comprehend, but that invitation through the Spirit is open to us.
“And that same sociality which exists among us here will exist among us there, only it will be coupled with eternal glory, which glory we do not now enjoy” (v. 2). H. Dean Garrett and Stephen E. Robinson note, “”Sociality” is not a word normally used to describe relationships between beings of different species. When Christ comes again…we will be his friends and family, for friendship and family relations are the highest and greatest expressions of sociality. Moreover, life in the resurrection will be much like righteous living is here and now, with similar types of activities and relationships. Our existence then will still be recognizable as a glorified extension of the best of human life as we know it in mortality.
“Orson Pratt taught that ‘a saint, who is one in deed and in truth, does not look for an immaterial heaven, but he expects a heaven with lands, houses, cities, vegetation, rivers, and animals; with thrones, temples, palaces, kings, princes, priests, and angels; with food, raiment, musical instruments, etc; all of which are material. Indeed, the Saints’ heaven is a redeemed, glorified, celestial, material creation, inhabited by glorified material beings, male and female, organized into families, embracing all the relationships of husbands and wives, parents and children, where sorrow, crying, pain, and death will be known no more.’” (H. Dean Garrett, Stephen E. Robinson, Commentary on the Doctrine and Covenants, Vol. 4, Salt Lake City, Deseret Book)
Orson Hyde, at the morning meeting, had interpreted John 14:23 incorrectly. The verse in John reads: “Jesus answered and said unto him, If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him. He read it that the Father and the Son can actually personally dwell in our heart.
Joseph corrects this in verse 3 of Section 130: “John 14:23—The appearing of the Father and the Son, in that verse, is a personal appearance; and the idea that the Father and the Son dwell in a man’s heart is an old sectarian notion, and is false.”
What’s even more telling is what Joseph told the Twelve four years earlier, concerning the text of John 14:23. “Now what is this other Comforter? It is no more nor less than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself; and this is the sum and substance of the whole matter; that when any man obtains this last Comforter, he will have the personage of Jesus Christ to attend him, or appear unto him from time to time, and even He will manifest the Father unto him.” (See Ehat and Cook, Words of Joseph Smith, 44; see also Woodford, “Historical Development,” 2:1703.)
That promise is breathtaking. Now Joseph answers a question about time: “Is not the reckoning of God’s atime, angel’s time, prophet’s time, and man’s time, according to the planet on which they reside?” Look at the interesting assumption there. God lives on a planet. Yes, He does. Joseph already knew this from translating the book of Abraham: “Kolob was after the manner of the Lord, according to its times and seasons in the revolutions thereof; that one revolution was a day unto the Lord, after his manner of reckoning, it being one thousand years according to the time appointed unto that whereon thou standest” (Abraham 3:4)
Now we know that we live on a planet whose time is reckoned by our revolution around the sun, making 365 days to our year. But a day unto the Lord, is a thousand years to us. Planets orbit their suns in different times. This answer to this question, however, opens a whole new door of understanding.
“Yes. But there are no angels who minister to this earth but those who do belong or have belonged to it. But they reside in the presence of God, on a globe like a sea of glass and fire, where all things for their glory are manifest, past, present, and future and are continually before the Lord. The place where God resides is a great Urim and Thummim.”
Garrett and Robinson write. “The planet on which God dwells has already passed through a process of change similar to death and resurrection and has been glorified in the same way that the earth will eventually be glorified.14 This great change in glory will dissolve the heavens and melt the very elements “with fervent heat” (see 2 Peter 3:12). Just as sand becomes glass when heated and purified, so the earth, when glorified, will be a new, celestial globe “sanctified and immortal” (v. 9) like that upon which God now dwells. According to Brigham Young, “This earth, when it becomes purified and sanctified, or celestialized, will become like a sea of glass; and a person, by looking into it, can know things past, present, and to come; though none but celestialized beings can enjoy this privilege. They will look into the earth, and the things they desire to know will be exhibited to them, the same as the face is seen by looking into a mirror.”
That the past, present, and future are continually before the Lord, is hard to comprehend for us in our linear, time-bound experience where we can’t remember yesterday accurately and the future is only vague shadows. Garrett and Robinson again: “While there is time with God (v. 4), it is not time as we mortals now perceive it. He sees our time as one great, eternal ‘now’ present before him. With God, the past is not yet over, and the future is already known. Thus, all things over which he presides are known perfectly by him, and all knowledge for the maximum glorification of his children and of their worlds is before him (Moses 1:39; D&C 76:43). God does not calculate, plot, or guess the future. Neither does he extrapolate it from what he knows about the past and present. The future is present before him, already known in infinite detail.”
Of course, that is why we can perfectly trust Him when He gives us counsel for which we cannot see the reason. The natural man wants to demand an explanation, but God rarely gives them. Perhaps that is because we just couldn’t comprehend and we can’t see all the conditions that play into leading us to what will bring us joy.
I remember Maurine, you told me a story about a 16-year-old boy, Marty, who just loved boats and his Sunday School teacher knew that. When Marty came to class on Sunday, the teacher had a stack of magazines about boats there, and Marty started looking at them and became quickly engrossed. Then the teacher asked for Marty to put the magazines down so they could have an opening prayer. Marty was too caught up to do it. The teacher then held up a sign that he had made previous to the class period that said, “Marty, put down the magazines so we can have the prayer.” The lesson that day was how God can see all things, but it was couched as if the Lord knows us so well, He can see what lies ahead. That is false. The truth is what we have been saying. You and I may not fathom how this can be but the past, present and future are continually before Him. You can absolutely trust a Father whose knowledge is so crystalline.
Joseph tells us, “I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of Man, when I heard a voice repeat the following:
“Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art eighty-five years old, thou shalt see the face of the Son of Man; therefore let this suffice, and trouble me no more on this matter” (vv. 14, 15). Since Joseph Smith didn’t live to be 85, the conditions upon which this was given were not met, but this is not surprising. God, who knows all things, appears to make this deliberately vague.
We live in a day where there is much speculation about the time of the Second Coming—and we can see tangibly that the world is in tumult—but no one, not even the head of this dispensation was given that specific information.
Now two gems: “Whatever principle of intelligence we attain unto in this life, it will rise with us in the resurrection. And if a person gains more knowledge and intelligence in this life through his diligence and obedience than another, he will have so much the advantage in the world to come” (vv. 18, 19). What a glorious thought. We get to keep what we have learned, and remember what we think we have forgotten. Our minds will be expanded, and that yearning to understand more will be fulfilled.
Right now is a moment in eternity, and not a time to waste. We are surrounded by distractions. We fritter our time away, looking for some relief from stress. We fill our minds with cotton candy instead of meat. As we do not take seriously the striving for knowledge, we waste away our potential and our lives are caught in the thick of thin things.
I like that word diligence applied to learning. In spiritual learning, the more you learn, the more you see. You and I have spent much time in seeking spiritual knowledge, and the more you dig, the more gold you find.
Now this, “There is a law, irrevocably decreed in heaven before the foundations of this world, upon which all blessings are predicated—And when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated.
What this means is described by Garrett and Robinson, “God’s universe is not random or arbitrary. There is a plan by which he governs all things, from the motions of the planets (D&C 88:42) to the salvation of his children (Article of Faith 3). God’s plan, or law, has many provisions, principles, promises, conditions, requirements, and consequences, but it is the same for all existence. It is the same for all men and women. It is irrevocable.
“Among other things, this doctrine denies the belief of some churches in the arbitrary grace of God, the idea that God treats some people differently than others—saving these or damning those—simply because he feels like it and for no special reason. The rules and principles of mortality and eternity were established before we ever came here, and they are the same for everyone. Considering the whole of our existence and all stages of life, the playing field is absolutely level, and the rules will never be changed in the middle of the game (see Abraham 3:25).” God is God because he perfectly understands and lives the law. We must too, to be like Him.
Section 132 is beyond glorious in laying out that eternity is a family affair, and just as we have a Heavenly Father and Mother bound in marriage, so we can be sealed and bound to our spouses forever. But I didn’t always feel this way about this section. When I was in college, I was falling in love with a young man and things were growing serious. One day he wrote me a note and signed it, Doctrine and Covenants Section 132 with his name. Of course, I went immediately to that section and read the whole thing, but instead of being overjoyed that he was indicating we should think about an eternal marriage, I came away in tears. Since that long ago time, my tears have dried up and I realized that I had come away with false assumptions reading this section. I assumed that eternal marriage and plural marriage were one thing and that if you were sealed, at some point in the next life polygamy would be a requirement. Before we start this discussion about Section 132, I want to tell you what I wished I’d known when I first read it.
The Introduction to Official Declaration 1 in the latest version of the scriptures makes it clear. “The Bible and the Book of Mormon teach that monogamy is God’s standard for marriage unless He declares otherwise.” Jacob told the Nephites, “Wherefore, my brethren, hear me, and hearken to the word of the Lord: For there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none…For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things.” So there are special cases, when the Lord commands it to raise up seed, but it is not the usual practice.
Valerie Hudson Cassler said this, “the Lord says in Doctrine and Covenants 49:16 “Wherefore, it is lawful that he [man] should have one wife, and they twain shall be one flesh, and all this that the earth might answer the end of its creation.” In the beginning, when the earth was empty and sorely needed replenishing, God gave Adam but one wife, Eve, that the pattern of his law of marriage might be set from the dawn of time in the very first human marriage on earth (see also Moses 5:3). Joseph Smith said, “ I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.” Bruce R. McConkie concurs: “According to the Lord’s law of marriage, it is lawful that a man have only one wife at a time, unless by revelation the Lord commands plurality of wives in the new and everlasting covenant.” Of course, taking a plurality of wives outside of the new and everlasting covenant, outside of being commanded to do so by the Lord, is always a grievous sin.” (Valerie Hudson, “Polygamy”( https://www.squaretwo.org/Sq2ArticleCasslerPolygamy.html)
Not only that but Joseph Smith himself did not say that God’s people would have to live polygamy to be exalted. With this, and much of the research on polygamy to follow, we depend on the work of Brian and Laura Hales, and if you have questions or want to explore further, you can at their website which is josephsmithspolygamy.org They report the following.
Here’s Wilford Woodruff: “When asked: ‘Did Joseph Smith ever teach at Nauvoo or anywhere else during his lifetime, that in order for a man to be exalted in the hereafter, he must have more than one wife,” He answered, “ I don’t know that I ever heard him make use of that expression.”
Bathsheba Smith: “When asked: “Did Joseph Smith teach you that a man must have more than one wife to be exalted?” Nauvoo polygamist and Apostle George A Smith’s wife Bathsheba Smith responded: “I never heard of that.”
Joseph C. Kingsbury “Did Joseph Smith ever teach that a man could not be exalted in the hereafter unless he had more wives than one?” Kingsbury replied: “No sir. He did not teach me that.” Kingsbury also recalled: “I heard it preached from the stand that a man could be exalted in eternity with one wife.”
After researching the topic deeply, Brian Hales concludes that polygamy was commanded for these possible reasons. It was a specific trial for a time and place. It may have been part of the restitution of all things. It was to multiply and replenish the earth.
I wonder, Who knows but that the Lord had to have certain of His children born to be a large enough group to carry off the restoration? A few years ago, we attended the Lucy Mack and Joseph Smith Sr. family reunion, and there we learned that there was a vast difference in the downline between Joseph Smith and his brother Hyrum. When it was practiced, Joseph’s posterity did not participate in polygamy and Hyrum’s did. Joseph only has between 1800 and 2000 people in his downline while Hyrum has nearly 30,000.
We’ve done firesides all over the church in the United States on Joseph Smith, and once in awhile we’ve asked the audience how many had ancestors who were polygamous. Where there are fewer converts, it was often the majority of the people.
A significant comment was made by Elder Quentin L. Cook and published in the July 2020 Ensign. He said, “In the senior councils of the church, there’s a feeling that plural marriage, as it was practiced, served its purpose. We should honor those Saints, but that purpose has been accomplished. Now, there are unanswered questions. But I want you to know that we have a loving Heavenly Father who has a perfect plan, that His plan is one of happiness, and that we have a Savior who did everything for us. We can trust in Them.”
A fourth reason for polygamy is certainly to allow all worthy men and women to be sealed in marriage and become candidates for exaltation. We had just been taught in Section 131 that: “In the celestial glory there are three heavens or degrees;
“And in order to obtain the highest, a man must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage]
“And if he does not, he cannot obtain it.” (vv. 1-3).
If the irrevocable law is that all must enter into the covenant of marriage to enter the highest degree of the Celestial kingdom, of course, the Lord, who loves His children will provide the way open for them. What we believe is that “Vicarious (and living) ordinances prior to the resurrection will assure that all worthy beings are sealed to joyful marriages they have chosen.” For all the reasons we’ve stated, neither woman nor men should fear eternal polygamy.
Here’s the context on Section 132. The Prophet Joseph Smith recorded this section on 12 July 1843, but he had known about it much earlier, perhaps, while translating the Old Testament in the spring of 1831. Since some of the Old Testament patriarchs practiced plural marriage, the prophet asked for a justification or more knowledge of this. Even so, the revelation was not recorded at that time and was not publicly announced until August 1852 in the Utah Territory.
On that 12 July 1843 morning, the prophet Joseph Smith met with his brother Hyrum and his clerk, William Clayton where they talked about the difficulties, Emma, Joseph’s wife, was having about accepting and living the practice. Hyrum said that Joseph should dictate the revelation because he believed that if he took it to Emma she would believe it. Joseph said, in effect, you do not know Emma as well as I do. Joseph was right, because not only did Emma not accept it, but she apparently burned the revelation, but other copies had been created. She had stood by Joseph while he took other wives in the spring, but had changed her mind by this July date.
Let’s turn to the revelation for a moment, and then return to some of the questions. This section can be divided into three parts. As this section opens, it is clear that Joseph has asked about those in the Old Testament who had many wives, but the Lord gives a bigger answer. It is like when Joseph went into the grove to see which Church he should join and is given the immense response or the First Vision; or when he is 17 and is seeking forgiveness for his sins, and is given that, but so much more because Moroni visits him and shows him where to find the plates. What is opened to Joseph is about eternal marriage, of which polygamy is only a subset when rarely commanded.
So the first part of this section is about eternal marriage and sealing. The Lord is revealing the new and everlasting covenant whose astounding promise for those who enter it is this: “Then shall they be gods, because they have no end; therefore shall they be from everlasting to everlasting, because they continue; then shall they be above all, because all things are subject unto them. Then shall they be gods, because they have all power, and the angels are subject unto them” (v. 20).
An important note here is that everything in the gospel is new and everlasting. It is new and everlasting because it is divine truth which does not grow old. All the covenants and the ordinances of the gospel are part of the new and everlasting covenant, not just marriage. It is a covenant within the new and everlasting covenant or the fulness of the gospel.
The promise to those who marry “by the new and everlasting covenant, and it is sealed unto them by the Holy Spirit of promise” is that they shall “come forth in the first resurrection; and shall inherit thrones, kingdoms, principalities, and powers, dominions, all heights and depths.” This promise is incomprehensible to us—we say it but we can’t fathom it– in our mortal and limited state, but we do know the very center of what these gifts are contingent upon.
The Lord says, “But if ye receive me in the world, then shall ye know me, and shall receive your exaltation; that where I am ye shall be also…This is eternal lives—to know the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent. I am he. Receive ye, therefore, my law (vv. 22,23).
It is significant that in our temples we make these eternal marriage covenants over an altar that symbolizes Christ’s great sacrifice for us. In order to receive these promises, we are literally sacrificing our old rebellious, resistant selves for promises that are so immense our eyes cannot see nor our hearts comprehend. Our marriage is a three way commitment of unity and power. Just as the Lord’s atonement was a whole-souled sacrifice to make us one with Him and our Father again, so it is what makes us one with our eternal companions. The root of atonement, of course, is at-one-ment.
Elder Bruce C. Hafen, speaking of a time when he was sealing a couple, said, “I invited them to the altar, and as the groom took the bride by the hand, I realized that they were about to place upon that altar of sacrifice their own broken hearts and contrite spirits—an offering of themselves to each other and to God in emulation of Christ’s sacrifice for them.”
This sealing power is bound by the sacrifice of the Savior. Kneeling by that altar makes it clear to us.
I once had a young inactive Latter-day Saint couple say to me of their marriage, “We don’t need to be sealed. God wouldn’t separate us in the hereafter because we love each other.” Actually, God’s house is a house of order and He offers these eternal blessings to us through his authority and his law. He is clear, “If a man marry him a wife in the world, and he marry her not by me nor by my word, and he covenant with her so long as he is in the world and she with him, their covenant and marriage are not of force when they are out of the world; therefore, they are not bound by any law when they are out of the world” (v. 15).
So, to have our family connections eternal, we follow the law. Generously, the Lord gives us every opportunity for these blessings. He knows we live in a messy world where all have not had the same opportunity, including those who have lived on this earth before the Restoration, those whose lives take turns or have disappointments they couldn’t have anticipated. All the righteous who want these temple blessings will be afforded them.
Now the second part of Section 132, beginning with verse 34, begins to discuss polygamy. Critics will say that Joseph introduced polygamy for his own interests, but they ignore the statements from Joseph’s own contemporaries about his extreme hesitancy. Benjamin F. Johnson remembered that Joseph “put it off” and waited until an angel with a drawn sword stood before him and declared that if he longer delayed fulfilling that command he would slay him.” Lorenzo Snow recalled that the Prophet “hesitated and deferred from time to time” and he “foresaw the trouble that would follow and sought to turn away from the commandment.” Erastus Snow reported that the angel accused the Prophet of “being neglectful in the discharge of his duties” and spoke “of Joseph having to plead on his knees before the Angel for his Life.” (See josephsmithspolygamy.org https://josephsmithspolygamy.org/beginnings-mormon-polygamy/)Apparently the angel visited him three times between 1834 and 1842.
Think, Joseph had weathered all things; he had learned to follow the Lord’s commandments through the greatest difficulties, when to do so seemed to put him and his people at risk. When it seemed impossible to build a temple in poverty and without skills in Kirtland, he led out. When people were apostatizing in Kirtland in 1837, he sent his most loyal lieutenants to England on a mission. Even as they were driven from Far West, he followed the Lord’s command to send the Twelve to England. He built again in Nauvoo and began building that temple, all to follow the Lord. He did the Lord’s will at all hazards, but this was truly difficult for him.
It was clear to Joseph that it would be disrupting and troubling to his family, to Emma’s heart and to the Saints who would be asked to live this principle. For it he endured, mockery, opposition, ostracism, persecution, beatings imprisonment and murder. He once said, “Many men will say, ‘I will never forsake you, but will stand by you at all times.’ But the moment you teach them some of the mysteries of the kingdom of God that are retained in the heavens, and are to be revealed to the children of men when they are prepared for them, they will be the first to stone you and put you to death. It was this same principle that crucified the Lord Jesus Christ, and will cause the people to kill the prophets in this generation (Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, p. 322).
To help both his potential plural brides and other leaders with their initial heartbreak and bewilderment, Joseph promised them that they, too, would have spiritual witnesses.
Joseph proposed a plural marriage to Lucy Walker in 1842 and she wrote, “My astonishment knew no bounds. This announcement was indeed a thunderbolt to me. She said, “I thought I prayed sincerely but was so unwilling to consider the matter favorably that I fear I did not pray in faith for light.” She went through excruciating bouts of what she called ‘darkness,’ praying, like Christ, ‘Oh let this bitter cup pass. And thus, I prayed in the agony of my soul…It was near dawn after another sleepless night. While on my knees in fervent supplication, my room became filled with a holy influence. To me it was a comparison like the brilliant sunshine bursting through the darkest cloud… My soul was filled with a calm sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of my whole being and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony.” (Lucy Walker Kimball, Autobiographical Sketch, Church History Library, Salt Lake City}.
Heber C. Kimball became sick and overwhelmed with anxiety when Joseph commanded Heber to take another wife without disclosing it to his wife Vilate. His daughter, Helen Kimball, wrote of it. “Finally . . . his misery became so unbearable that it was impossible to control his feelings. He became sick in body, but his mental wretchedness was too great to allow of his retiring at night, and instead of going to bed he would walk the floor; and the agony of his mind was so terrible that he would wring his hands and weep, beseeching the Lord with his whole soul to be merciful and reveal to his wife the cause of his great sorrow, for he himself could not break his vow of secrecy. His anguish and my mother’s were indescribable and when unable to endure it longer, she retired to her room, where with a broken and contrite heart, she poured out her grief to [God]. She returned to my father, saying, Heber, what you have kept from me the Lord has shown me. She related the scene to me and to many others, and told me she never saw so happy a man as father was, when she described the vision and told him she was satisfied and knew it was from God.” (Helen Mar Whitney, Women’s Exponent 10 (Octobe 15, 1881): 74.
Mary Elizabeth Lightner Rollins had a unique experience. When Joseph talked to her about it, he said, “’Pray earnestly, for the angel said to me you should have a witness’…I made it a subject of prayer, and I worried about it because I did not dare to speak to a living being except Brigham Young. I went out and got between three haystacks where no one could see me…I knelt down and if ever a poor mortal prayed, I did. A few nights after that an angel of the Lord came to me and if ever a thrill went through a mortal, it went through me. I gazed upon the clothes and figure but the eyes were like lightning. They pierced me from the crown of my head to the soles of my feet. I was frightened almost to death for a moment. I tried to waken my aunt but I could not. The angel leaned over me and the light was very great although it was night.
“Joseph came up the next Sabbath. He said, ‘Have you had a witness yet?’ ‘No.’ ‘Well,’ said he, ‘the angel expressly told me you should have.’ Said I, ‘I have not had a witness, but I have seen something I have never seen before. I saw an angel, and I was frightened almost to death. I did not speak.’ He studied a while and put his elbows on his knees and his facc in his hands. He looked up and said, ‘How could you have been such a coward?’ Said I, ‘I was weak.’ ‘Did you think to say, “Father, help me?”’ ‘No.’ ‘Well, if you had just said that, your mouth would have been opened for that was the angel of the living God. He came to you with more knowledge, intelligence and light than I ever dared to reveal.’ I said, ‘If that was an angel of light, why did he not speak to me?’ ‘You covered your face.’ Said I, ‘Will it ever come again?’ He thought for a moment and said, ‘No, not the same one, but if you are faithful you shall see greater things than that.’” (from Mary Elizabeth Lightner Rollins family records).
Questions swirl around Joseph’s involvement with polygamy, so, let me answer a few quickly to the best of our knowledge. He doesn’t personally leave us a record of his own thoughts and feelings. First, it appears we see three kinds of plural marriages in Joseph’s life—eternity only, time and eternity and time only. There is no polyandry, in other words a woman taking two husbands and living conjugally with both. Those instances where Joseph is sealed to married women, it is usually that their husbands are not members or believers, and the sealing blessings are being extended to them. It was a practice throughout the nineteenth century to sometimes seal single women to Joseph or Brigham so that they could have the sealing blessings.
Second, Joseph apparently has no children from these unions. There have been candidates over the years and family traditions that some one was a son or daughter of Joseph, but that has not borne out in DNA tests. To this point, the only children that we know he had is with Emma.
Third, as we see with the example with Heber C. Kimball, in the Nauvoo period, plural marriage was very much under the radar with a secrecy that the Lord demanded.
What we can say, looking back at that time is that we recognize that those who participated faced an Abrahamic test, including Joseph, and we acknowledge their sacrifice.
That’s all for today. This has been Scot and Maurine Proctor with Meridian Magazine’s Come Follow Me podcast. Next week we’ll study Doctrine and Covenants 133-134, “Prepare Ye for the Coming of the Bridegroom.” Thanks to Paul Cardall for the music and to Michaela Proctor Hutchins who produces this show.