OK…..my polygamy article is now ready as well. You can acccess it here.

Please read what I’m trying to do here before you comment.

I really look forward to your feedback.

Thanks again!

John Dehlin


  1. J. Stapley December 8, 2005 at 12:23 am

    1. Why don’t you use compton’s marraige window instead of the 1883-1885 window that doesn’t seem too accurate?

    2. instead of saying 30-50 wives I would state that there is is substantive evidence for 33(compton) or 31(bachmann), though there could be more. I think that Brodie’s number can not be entertained. Moreover, if you went with compton, you could get precise numbers for polyandry and Joseph, Hyrum, and others are incarcerated in Carthage jail for the destruction of this press

  2. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 1:17 am

    I’ve never read Compton.

    Do you mean 1833 – 1835?

    Also, I wonder if there are web links to Compton’s work? I’m trying to keep this all web based, if possible. Also, is Compton a pro-LSD enough source? I’m trying to keep this as official and pro-church (in terms of sources) as I can.

  3. R. C. December 8, 2005 at 7:02 am

    Compton is active LDS.

  4. pjj December 8, 2005 at 8:23 am

    Your link for the BH Roberts marriages goes to a group sheet showing him with one wife and children, rather than to his page with three wives. Someone unfamiliar with familysearch wouldn’t be able to see the point that you are making.

    I think it is wrong to lump “liberal” sources with anti-mormon sources. I dont’ think that they are the same thing. I don’t think that “liberal” is the correct term– “Scholarly” or “research-based” might be a better term. Putting them in with the Tanners implies that they are also “anti”. “Anti” to me implies that they start out with an intentiont to disprove the church, while the folks I’m talking about are more interested in finding out the history.

    I think you have to have Todd Compton’s work there to be credible as a source about the history of polygamy.

  5. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 9:39 am

    Thanks, pjj

    I fixed the B.H. Roberts link. Does anyone else know how I can link to Compton on the web? Good links in bite-sized pieces of Compton?


  6. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 9:43 am

    P.S. If I create a “scholarly” or “reserach-based” group, and don’t include FAIR, I’m gonna get MASSACRED (implying they’re not). :)

    Any further ideas to help resolve the “don’t offend FAIR but still create a separate section that implies neutrality and credibility”?

  7. J. Stapley December 8, 2005 at 10:39 am

    I must have comment problems here. Yes I meant 1833-1835. I also meant to say you could get precise numbers for polyandrous and under 18 marraiges. Aslo, the note on why they were incarcerated:

    Joseph, Hyrum, and others are incarcerated in Carthage jail for the destruction of this press

    I’m not sure how valid a statement that is.

    RE: Compton. I didn’t find it hostile. Hard hitting, yes. There is no text on the web, neither for Bachman’s thesis (which is also seminal and friendly). You might find some resources in the FARMS review of Compton.

  8. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 11:09 am

    J. Stapley,

    You really don’t see the destruction of the printing press being directly tied to his incarceration?

  9. J. Stapley December 8, 2005 at 11:58 am

    Well, I do see it as being directly involved. However, they were not incarceted “for” that action. My reading is that they were incarcerated for treason (if I remember right) to quell regional violence in response to Mormon hegemony and brought to an apex in the destruction of the press.

    From lightplanet:

    The Prophet’s final use of habeas corpus came after his arrest in June 1844 by a county constable for inciting a “riot” by ordering suppression of the Nauvoo Expositor. This action climaxed a series of lawsuits between the Prophet and several apostates, who had charged him with perjury and adultery; he had countercharged with perjury, assault, defamation, and resisting arrest. After a subsequent trial on the merits and his acquittal in Nauvoo, the governor persuaded the Prophet to let himself be arrested and tried again for the “riot,” this time in Carthage, where he was incarcerated without bail on a new charge of “treason” for declaring martial law and ordering out the Nauvoo militia to keep peace. Joseph Smith’s enemies charged that he was going on the offensive against citizens of Illinois. Two days later, he and his brother Hyrum were killed by a mob in disguise.

  10. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 12:17 pm

    I guess I can totally understand that some would want to delve into the nuances or legal specifics of the situation–but since I’m creating this for the average LDS person, and I’m trying to keep it really simple….isn’t it reasonable/fair/accurate just to say something like…

    “printing press was destroyed, which led to his incarceration”

    I’m open to different verbeage…but it seems reasonable and unavoidable to make the connection (at least in my mind)

  11. RoastedTomatoes December 8, 2005 at 1:44 pm


    Compton’s book isn’t on the web. On the other hand, it should be in your house! I really can’t imagine trying to write something on the topic of polygamy without having read his book. It’s like trying to do physics without being familiar with the ideas of Isaac Newton! =)

    Perhaps a good approach, in terms of keeping this web-friendly, would be to have a collateral page in which you provide quotations of a few key ideas from Compton’s book, as well as a link to the Amazon listing for the volume. This would fall under fair use and thus be legal, would provide internet access to the key materials that you want to use, and would allow you to incorporate the seminal text on Joseph Smith’s polygamy into your discussion.

  12. Greg Smith December 8, 2005 at 1:51 pm

    Compton is “hostile” in the sense that he is “hostile” to Joseph’s prophetic claims on the polygamy issue. Compton considers Joseph’s claim to have received revelation on plural marriage to be false; he argues that Joseph got ‘carried away’ with his restorationism, and so adopted a (non inspired) Old Testament marriage form.

    [This explains why anti-Mormons love the book; they understand what Compton’s thesis means for Joseph’s prophetic status even if Compton doesn’t.]

    This (flawed) interpretive scheme mars much of his book; the data is useful, but his overriding thesis slants how he deals with that data.

    That Compton says this all nicely and kindly makes it no less ‘hostile’ to Joseph’s prophetic claims.

    But, if you haven’t at least read and processed Compton, one can’t claim to be up on the all the involved issues.
    Joseph was _not_ jailed for the Expositor destruction. He was released on bail for the charges related to that, and the matter held over for the circuit court (due in October, IIRC).

    One can say “it led to,” but many things “lead” to something. Joseph’s decision to publish the Book of Mormon ultimatley “led to” his being jailed and murdered.

    Again, this demonstrates why a neutral, “just the facts, ma’am” approach usually involves some degree of interpretation. Joseph was charged with treason by a justice of the peace who was also a religious minister with religious biases against him.

    You want to “keep it simple,” but (as Einstein reportedly said) “Everything should be as simple as possible, but no simpler.”

    Simplicity (especially in historical events) often leads to distortion, whether intended or not.

  13. J. Stapley December 8, 2005 at 2:04 pm

    I agree with RT with regards to fair use. As far as verbiage, I would consider somthing like this:

    Joseph’s ordered destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor press, catalyzed events that ultimately resulted in his being jailed for Treason.

  14. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 2:53 pm

    “Joseph’s ordered destruction of the Nauvoo Expositor press, catalyzed events that ultimately resulted in his being jailed for Treason.”

    Done!!!! Thanks for helping me refine.

  15. John Dehlin December 8, 2005 at 2:58 pm

    OK, Greg. We’ve fixed the incarceration bullet.

    I understand your point about simplicity. Now I’ll ask you…what bullets would you add? Delete? Change?

    If you give something specific, I can improve.



  16. clark December 8, 2005 at 5:18 pm

    I’d second Greg’s point. While Compton isn’t opposed to LDS thought (he even tried to have the book published by FARMS initially), he clearly does reject polygamy as inspired and that definitely does shape how he interprets events. For that reason it’s problematic, although I think his notion of dynastic marriages is a hugely important theoretical concept for understanding 19th century Mormonism.

    Having said that though, I think like Compton is perhaps the most important book on LDS polygamy. (Which isn’t to devalue the other important books – just raise that Compton has set the theoretic work which people need to react to)

  17. RoastedTomatoes December 8, 2005 at 6:13 pm

    As far as I can tell, there are no questions about whether polygamy was inspired in the temple recommend interview. Hence, I would conclude that calling Compton an unfaithful Mormon on the basis of his beliefs in that regard would seem somewhat problematic to me.

  18. Ann December 8, 2005 at 10:07 pm

    I would take out the reference to the wives under 18 and 15. Pick a number in the middle – 16 and under. While marriage at 17 wasn’t common in the mid-19th century, it certainly wasn’t outside cultural norms.

    There is a website: The Wives of Joseph Smith that seems to pull most of its data straight from Compton.

    And I agree with everybody who says you need to give the book a scan. The intro and footnotes are the most pertinent to the topic – I found the body of the book to be mostly about the lives of the women themselves, with polygamy just one piece of those lives. It was a refreshing change from church history’s usual male-centric POV.

  19. RoastedTomatoes December 8, 2005 at 11:07 pm

    Actually, the Signature Books website has the introduction to Compton’s book online. So the summary and theoretical material is available there.

    But the rest of the book is just a great read, both for the fact that it focuses on women’s lives rather than men’s (as Ann rightly points out) and also because of the rare attention to many people who occupy no position in the hierarchy — including first husbands of polyandrous wives and obviously the women themselves.

  20. pjj December 9, 2005 at 3:18 pm

    John, I don’t know for sure what to call people like D. Michael Quinn, but Anti-Mormon is not the right term. Although Quinn’s been excommunicated, the last I heard he still believes in much church doctrine, and I’ve heard him say that he believes that an angel appeared to JS, etc. It’s not really fair to assassinate someone’s character here, just to avoid offending the folks at FAIR [sic]. Maybe you could have “apologetics”, “Anti-Mormons”, and “other”. Also, I think that it would be appropriate to have some books listed,especially on this topic. I realize that you are trying to keep things simple and accessible, but I don’t think that it would hurt to have a bibliography at the end of the list for people who are really interested.

    I applaud your desire to try to help people understand why other people leave the church, but I still think you’re going to get really slammed, even more than already, by coming up with lists like this. Just a warning.

  21. Ann December 9, 2005 at 10:58 pm

    You could call the other stuff “fair and balanced.” Maybe Bill O’Reilly would sue you. That would be great publicity.

  22. Watt Mahoun December 9, 2005 at 11:58 pm

    Amazon also has their “look inside” which includes the front/back cover, several pages of chapter 1, and the index…so between this and the Signature link that RT provides, you get a good taste of the book…defitely worth linking to.

    Good work, John.

  23. Jim December 14, 2005 at 10:38 pm

    Compton gives a response to FARMS review of his book and provides more insights on his view of things. I think his book is excellent.

    Thanks for your efforts John.

  24. clark December 14, 2005 at 10:55 pm

    For the record, I’d not call Quinn anti-Mormon in the least. Far from it. I think he has much more in common with apologists. Indeed I think a lot of his stuff is apologetics. The question is, apologetics for what?

  25. pellar February 9, 2006 at 7:01 am

    The RLDS church has substantial evidence that polygamy was never practiced by J.S. and that his name was attatched by association to men who did. It is quite a conspiracy they are proposising however after looking more closely at the evidence it seems completely possible.

  26. pellar February 9, 2006 at 8:48 am

    I guess I should elaborate on their theory since I haven’t heard anyone else in mormon bloggerdom bringing up this as a possibility even though the RLDS insist that they have the evidence to back it all up. Their evidence suggests that polygamy began with roots in a sect called Cochrainism where Brigham Yound went on a mission. He brought back the idea and others subscribed. There are some tedious details that include a spiteful Doctor Bennet who was out to bury Joseph Smith in any way. Dr. Bennet made false claims over and over about Smith being a polygamist. There is quite a bit to wade through and I can not summarize it here, however, the gist is this. Joseph Smith taught one husband one wife. Later authorities embraced polygamy entering section 132 in the D&C eight years after Smiths death and attaching his name along with wives to his name.

    The RLDS website accesses the TIMES AND SEASONS where much evedence is taken from.

    Has anyone else been educated on this perspective? What do you think of it?

    Information taken from https://restorationbookstore.org/articles/nopoligamy/jsfp-vol1/toc.htm

    and https://restorationbookstore.org/articles/nopoligamy/jsfp-visionarticles/toc.htm

  27. John Dehlin February 9, 2006 at 4:08 pm

    Jen (I assume that’s your name),

    My understanding is that the RLDS church used to deny that Joseph practiced polygamy, but has since acknowledged it (and lost many members as a result).

    Check this out as a reference….


    “The issues of polygamy and whether Joseph Smith Jr. was connected with its inception at Nauvoo, Illinois, in the 1840s have been of considerable interest to Community of Christ members and others through the years. The early RLDS Church (1860–1960) consistently opposed the doctrine and fought against the assertion by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints [Mormon] that Joseph Smith Jr. advocated this practice as part of a divine plan. Joseph Smith III, son of the founding prophet and first prophet-president of the RLDS Church (1860–1914), spent much of his life trying to clear his father’s name from the stigma of polygamy and polygamous doctrine, even though there were leaders in the early RLDS Church who believed otherwise. While it is clear that Joseph Smith III sincerely believed that his father was innocent, he was heard to affirm on more than one occasion that even if his father was guilty, he was wrong.

    Today the Community of Christ takes into account the growing body of scholarly research and publications depicting the polygamous teachings and practices of the Nauvoo period of church history (1840–1846). The context of these developments included a time of religious and cultural experimentation in the United States and the emergence of a system of secret temple ordinances in Nauvoo that accented the primacy of family connections, both in this life and the next. The practice of plural marriage emerged from that context and involved a select cadre of key leaders entering into polygamous marriage rituals and covenants. The research findings seem to increasingly point to Joseph Smith Jr. as a significant source for plural marriage teaching and practice at Nauvoo. However, several of Joseph Smith’s associates later wrote that he repudiated the plural marriage system and began to try to stop its practice shortly before his death in June 1844.”

  28. pellar February 10, 2006 at 12:46 pm

    Where does the evidence come from that he “repudiated the plural marriage system and began to try and stop its practice shortly before his death”? Does this have any legitamate backing? It seems that in fact most of his wives were married within the last two years of his life.

  29. John Dehlin February 10, 2006 at 1:15 pm


    I believe they are referring to statements he made in Journal of Discources-like talks before he was martyred. The sense I got from reading through some JS biographies was that towards the end, as top church leaders (like William Law) started defecting, JS started telling people that the polygamy thing was getting out of hand, and was a mistake.

    I don’t have the sources, but I’m sure someone can find them…


  30. pellar February 11, 2006 at 4:23 am

    Why would JS lie over and over about practicing polygamy if he believed it was divine? He was not a stranger to persecution. It would seem that JS was trying something out and not sure about its divinity enough to come out with it. This would then take us to the topic of fallibility of prophets and the mistake of basing one’s testimony largely on JS.

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