‘Mormon Land’: The ‘secret’ wives of Joseph Smith and how they viewed polygamy

Scholar’s new book, “In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents,” shares the writings and reflections of these women, some of whom wedded the church founder while in their teens or while married to other men.

Joseph Smith, top left, and some of his wives, clockwise from top middle: Emma Hale Smith; Eliza R. Snow; Martha McBride (Knight Smith Kimball); Marinda Nancy Johnson (Hyde Smith); and Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs (Smith Young).

The polygamy of Mormonism’s second prophet-president, Brigham Young, is well known. Until the late 1990s, however, many members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints had no idea that church founder Joseph Smith had taken dozens of women as his plural wives.

Unlike with his first wife, Emma Smith, he didn’t live with the women (polygamy was secretly practiced during the early faith’s years in Nauvoo, Ill.) and how intimate he was with them remains in dispute among historians.

Scholar Todd Compton was among the first to fully document Smith’s wives in his 1997 book, “In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith.” Now he has come out with a second book, “In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents,” which includes many of the materials he mined to gain a better understanding of the first Mormon’s marital relations.

On this week’s show, Compton discusses what he learned about Joseph Smith, his wives (some in their early teens and some married to other men), what their marriages were like, their level of intimacy, whether any children resulted and more.

Listen here: