Lucy Walker remembered the Prophet’s emphasis that plural wives should not be coerced or manipulated: “A woman would have her choice, this was a privilege that could not be denied her.”1
When arranging a marriage for his brother William Smith, Joseph apparently respected this ideal by inviting the woman, Mary Ann Covington, to participate only if she “felt willing to consent to it.”2
Later sealing ceremonies in the Nauvoo Temple required the acknowledgement that all participants were there by their free will and choice, a requirement that likely began with Joseph. The only recorded ceremony sealing Joseph Smith to a plural wife was dictated by revelation to Bishop Newel K. Whitney who pronounced the ceremony marrying his daughter, Sarah Ann Whitney to the Prophet. It provided the opportunity for her to decline: “you both mutu[al]ly agree calling them by name to be each others companion so long as you both shall live.”3
Joseph Smith’s offers of plural marriage were apparently turned down by at least seven women. His preferred response to these rejections seems to have been to let the matter rest. No evidence of retaliatory excommunications or other vengeful reactions has been found, although twice he sought to counteract allegations he considered untrue.
- Lucy Walker Kimball, “A Brief Biographical Sketch of the Life and Labors of Lucy Walker Kimball Smith,” LDS Church History Library; quoted in Littlefield, Reminiscences of Latter-day Saints, 46. (back)
- Mary Ann West, Deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent’s Testimony, part 3, pages 495–96, 504, questions 13, 272. According to her testimony, this was the only time she discussed plural marriage with the Prophet. See ibid., page 503, questions 264–65. (back)
- Revelation for Newell K. Whitney, July 27, 1842. Original manuscript in CHL; quoted in Michael Marquardt, The Joseph Smith Revelations: Text and Commentary, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1999, 315–16; see also Revelations in Addition to Those Found in the LDS Edition of the D&C on New Mormon Studies: A Comprehensive Resource Library. CD-ROM. Salt Lake City: Smith Research Associates, 1998. (back)