12 Jul: The Many Wives of Joseph Smith

Mormons were told to embrace polygamy on 12th July, 1843 – when the founder of the Latter Day Saint movement, Joseph Smith, said a revelation had told him he must marry multiple women to continue serving God.

It was a controversial change to the faith, meeting resistance not only from Smith’s first wife, but from other patriarchs in the Church. Nevertheless, Smith went on to have at least 40 wives, at least 7 of whom were under the age of 18.

In this episode, Arion, Rebecca and Olly consider whether the ‘sealing’ marriages advocated by Smith were sexual in nature; review the various euphemisms for polygamy in circulation at the time, including ‘spiritual wifery’; and explain why, even though the Church officially ended the policy in 1890, it continues to haunt them to this day… 

Further Reading:

• ‘The Mormon church finally acknowledges founder Joseph Smith’s polygamy’ (The Washington Post, 2014): https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/national/wp/2014/11/11/the-mormon-church-finally-acknowledges-founder-joseph-smiths-polygamy/

• ‘Timeline: The Early History of the Mormons’ (PBS American Experience): https://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/mormons-timeline/

• ‘Mormon Church Acknowledges Joseph Smith’s Polygamy Practices’ (MSNBC, 2014):

As every good polygamist knows, you can never have too much of a good thing – so there’s an bonus bit of the team talking about this day in history exclusively available to our supporters on Apple Podcasts and Patreon today. Support the show now, and get an extra snipped like this every single week!https://patreon.com/Retrospectors.