Latest from Mormon Land: The contrasting views of Joseph Smith’s wives about polygamy

Also: MLK Day outreach; Puerto Rico gets its first LDS temple; and a look at Russell Nelson’s five years as church president.

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 Mormon Land newsletter is The Salt Lake Tribune’s weekly highlight reel of developments in and about The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Support us on Patreon and get the full newsletter, exclusive access to Tribune subscriber-only religion content and podcast transcripts.

Joseph’s wives sound off on plural marriage

It’s no surprise that the plural wives (and their families) of church founder Joseph Smith had varying views of polygamy.

Scholar Todd Compton, author of “In Sacred Loneliness: The Documents,” noted as much during his appearance on our “Mormon Land” podcast last fall.

But the differences are deep in two reflections he cited in a recent “From the Desk” interview with Kurt Manwaring.

First, from Joseph’s niece Ina Coolbrith, daughter of Agnes Moulton Coolbrith. Agnes had married the Latter-day Saint prophet in 1842:

“Is it right for a girl of 15 and even 16 to marry a man of 50 or 60? Can there be any love there? And has not God willed a woman to love honor and obey her husband? And can it be right thus to pledge false vows at the altar, in perfect mockery of all that is good and pure in God’s most holy laws?” Ina wrote in 1857 (edited here for clarity). “I think I see myself, vowing to love and honor, some old driveling idiot of 60, to be taken into his harem and enjoy the pleasure of being his favorite sultana for an hour, and then thrown aside, whilst my godly husband, is out sparking another girl, in hopes of getting another victim to his despotic power. Pleasant prospect, I must say. And this, Joe, this is of God, is it? No, never, never, never! You may preach, you may talk to me from now to eternity, but you never will make me believe that polygamy is true.”

Compare those words with these, from Eliza Partridge Smith Lyman, who married Joseph in 1843:

“It is now about 31 years since the prophet Joseph Smith taught to me the principles of celestial marriage. I was then married by that order and have raised a family of both sons and daughters in what is called polygamy, and I am not afraid to say that it is one of the most pure and holy principles that has ever been revealed to the Latter-day Saints, and one that is necessary to our exaltation,” she wrote in 1879 (again edited for clarity). “The anti-polygamists say the laws of celestial marriage are a curse to our children. Will they be kind enough to tell us where it is any disadvantage to them? We are not afraid to compare our children with those born and raised in monogamy. Perhaps they do not know that the Lord reserved some of the most noble spirits to come forth in the last days, to perform the great work which he has begun on earth, and which he will consummate in spite of all opposing influences. … Then let us rejoice, my sisters, that we are numbered with the people of God, that we have embraced the celestial order of marriage, and happy shall we be in a coming day if we have never spoken lightly of sacred things.”

Hear our full podcast with Compton and read excerpts from that interview.

MLK Day outreach

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Kristin M. Yee and Tracy Y. Browning take a selfie with volunteers at the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Tribute food drive in St. Louis on Jan. 16, 2023.

The church donated 20 tons of goods for a St. Louis food drive Monday in honor of Martin Luther King Jr.

Kristin Yee, second counselor in the faith’s Relief Society general presidency, and Tracy Browning, second counselor in the Primary general presidency, united with hundreds of other volunteers for the humanitarian event designed to aid those facing food insecurity.

“It has just been marvelous to watch all these people who came out with no sunshine, in cold weather and rain, who are just here to support and serve those in the community,” Browning, the first Black woman to serve in a churchwide presidency, said in a news release. “It’s a really beautiful spirit here today.”

A first for Puerto Rico

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Young people enjoy being at the dedication of the San Juan Puerto Rico Temple on Jan. 15, 2023.

Apostle D. Todd Christofferson on Sunday dedicated the San Juan Temple, Puerto Rico’s first Latter-day Saint temple.

The single-spired, single-story, 7,000-square-foot edifice, announced by President Russell Nelson in October 2018, will serve the U.S. territory’s more than 23,000 members.

The latest ‘Mormon Land’ podcast: The ancient church vs. the modern church

How the early Christian church was organized and evolved — including the more expansive roles women played — and how the current church is set up and changing to increase women’s roles. Listen to the podcast.

From The Tribune

• In his five years as president, Russell Nelson set a dizzying pace of historic reforms, navigated a pandemic and reshaped the faith of today to welcome Christ’s return tomorrow.

Mary Crandall Hales, widow of apostle Robert Hales, dies at 90.

• What can we learn from a lonely Black Latter-day Saint trying to reach Zion and a church magazine photo of a bare-breasted woman? Tribune guest columnist Ardis E. Parshall shows how honest history can be revealing, surprising and healing.

(The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) Apostle Robert D. Hales leaves with his wife, Mary, from the Sunday afternoon session of General Conference in April 2015. He died in 2017; she died Sunday, Jan. 15, 2023.