The Audio Version
The Audio Version
Episode 8 (Common Questions): Did Joseph’s Plural Marriages Include Sexual Relations?

Some question whether Joseph Smith’s plural marriages included sexuality. The answer is yes or no, depending upon the type of plural marriage. Those that were for this life and the next (called “time and eternity”) could include sexual relations. Those that were limited to the next life (“eternity only”) presumably did not. Overall, evidence indicates infrequent sexual relations in less than half of Joseph Smith’s polygamous unions, which is likely why only two children are known to have been born to Joseph’s plural wives, with only one living to adulthood, a daughter, Josephine Lyon Fisher.

Because such private behavior is seldom easy to verify, particularly in nineteenth century documents, historical accuracy is elusive.  Notwithstanding, current evidence supports that up to twenty of the thirty-five women sealed to the Prophet may have been sealed to him for eternity only and were not his wives during his earthly life.  Intimate relations between Joseph and eternity-only spouses would have constituted adultery. The remaining fifteen wives were sealed for time and eternity, meaning for this life and the next, so sexuality was permitted and even expected in order to fulfill the second reason for plural marriage, which is to “multiply and replenish the earth.”  These wives viewed Joseph Smith as their bona fide husband (according to God’s laws) and sought to spend time with him and to have a family with him.