One apologetic response you are guaranteed to get if you bring up Joseph Smith’s polygamy and the 14 year old girls1 he wed is this idea that getting married at that age was normal for the time. I get that this is very commonly taught in the hallways of church as a way to help members shelve their doubts and just keep on believing. But was it really normal?
This justification even made it into the hard to find LDS essay on the topic that seemed to be very carefully worded in an effort to keep people in the boat after finding all this stuff out. After all it did mention that getting married at ‘almost 15’ years old wasn’t illegal at the time. But that really isn’t the whole story is it? Helen Mar honestly wasn’t keen at all on the idea of marring a 37 year old guy as his 20th plus bride. But that alone doesn’t make it abnormal nor illegal. I mean sure a girl could legally get married at age 14, but it it turns out it was in fact completely illegal to do it as a polygamous bride. 2
Which is probably why Joe the prophet lied about it to over 300 recent converts that had just showed up in town and heard the rumors of polygamy that would soon make the first and only printing of the Nauvoo Expositor’s paper. Only printing because surprise, surprise the press would soon be ordered destroyed as a public nuisance by the Mayor of Nauvoo, also known as Joseph Smith, self proclaimed prophet of God.
Don’t believe me? Go read about it for yourself in the LDS history books here.3 The prophet clearly indicated he had only one wife to this group of saints and carefully worded it might be it, was as least as deceitful as Bill Clinton’s claim he didn’t have sexual intercourse with Monica.
So even if you ignore census evidence that shows this age of marriage wasn’t at all normal. The most obvious and least asked question in this profet’s opinion is simply this:
If it was normal for the time and place for a 37 year old man to wed a 14 year old girl…. Then why did Joseph lie about it?
- Yes there was more than one! Google it if you need to find out more! ↩
- Sneaky how they used the word illegal to imply it was normal for the time wasn’t it? ↩
- For more on the destroying the press you can start here and then do some googling on your own. See if you can discover how that act led directly to his arrest and incarceration before he was killed. ↩