With a written document explaining the principle of plural marriage available after July 12, 1843, questions about it multiplied. At that time, perhaps 8000 residents inhabited Nauvoo. In 1871, George A. Smith taught: “In 1843 the law on celestial marriage was written, but not published, and was known only to perhaps one or two hundred persons.”1

According to several accounts, both Joseph and Hyrum used the revelation to teach the new principles. When asked when he first heard the revelation read, Cyrus Wheelock recalled “there was a few of us in the woods, getting out of the way and we were talking and I heard about it.”2

In 1892, he reported that on a “rainy and chilly” day in November of 1843, while situated in a thick of trees about a mile outside of Montrose, Iowa, Joseph Smith “had that revelation read to a group of three or four or five together” by his clerk.3

James Leithead wrote in 1904:

I was engaged at that time [autumn 1843] in building a barn for Hyrum Smith, the Prophet’s brother, and this discourse was the subject of our talk. I ate dinner with Hyrum every day while laboring there. … Brother Hyrum and I were alone at the dinner table, and I asked him if it was a revelation. He never hesitated one moment, but said that it was, and that he had carried that revelation to the High Council for their consideration and that all of the High Council accepted of it except two.4

Church member Charles Smith remembered that even the “Elders” in Nauvoo were made aware of the revelation:

Patriarch Hyrum Smith met with the Elders at Nauvoo in the winter of 1843–4 and there told them that the doctrine of Plurality of Wives had bothered him considerably and he felt constrained to ask wherein Abraham Moses, David & others could be justified before God in practicing this to him repugnant doctrine—He asked his brother the Prophet Joseph to ask this question of the Lord—Joseph did so and the Reveln/ given 12 July 1843 was the answer.5

Several Latter-day Saints recall having had the opportunity to keep the copy of the revelation for a few days for their own examination.

William Law reported: “Hyrum Smith did, (in his office) read to me a certain written document, which he said was a revelation from God, he said that he was with Joseph when it was received. He afterwards gave me the document to read, and I took it to my house, and read it, and showed it to my wife, and returned it next day.”6

When asked in the 1892 Temple Lot deposition whether she had ever “read that revelation when you were at Nauvoo,” Malissa Lot testified: “Yes sir … I got it from Joseph Smith … it was in writing, – it was in manuscript.”7

Hyrum Smith’s plural wife Mercy Rachel Thompson stated that she kept the revelation “some four or five days. Something like that.”8 She also recalled: “I saw that revelation on polygamy, and had it in my hands – saw what kind of paper it was written on. It was written on foolscap paper.”9

Writing in 1886 she reminisced: “On the subject of Brother Hyrum reading it [the revelation] to the High Council, I well remember the circumstances. I remember he told me he had read it to the brethren in his office. He put it into my hands and left it with me for several days. I had been sealed to him by Brother Joseph a few weeks previously.”10

Lucy Walker testified that she saw the revelation “at the Nauvoo Mansion” where she was living.11

Nauvoo Church member Charles Lambert recounted:

The Prophet used to hold meetings in a Log house of his sometimes twice a week I donot [sic] remember missing one when I had a chance at one of these he said he wished he had a people that he could reveal to them what the Lord had shown to him but one thing I will say there are thousands of Spirits that have been waiting to come forth in this day and generation thier proper channel is through the Priesthood a way has to be provided but the time has come and they have got to come anyway and thus left me in a fix. Some time after this Wm Clayton told me if I would come down into the basement of the Temple he wanted to show me something and that I might bring Stephen Hales with me we went into a little place boxed of[f] for a paint shop for Wm Pitt he been present there Br Wm C. read unto us the Revelation on Plural Marriage. This explained the above I believed it yet did not obey the same until 1872. I think it was on or about the 6th of May 1844 the Prophet Joseph came up to the Temple and clasping his arms around me and lifted me of[f] my feet then said the Lord bless thee and I bless thee.12

In 1892 Mary Ann West testified:

He [Hyrum Smith] came into our house … and he said that there was a revelation, and I told him that I would very much like to read the revelation, that Joseph had received on plural marriage, and … he said he would go over and get it for us to read, and he went over and came back in a little while and he looked very sober [and downcast13], and I asked him, said I, “What is the matter”, – what is the matter? Can’t you get it”, and he said, “no, Emma took it out of Joseph’s pocket last night and burned it”, and so I did not get to read the revelation although I was very anxious to do so.14

Whether the Kingsbury copy was secretly circulated in Nauvoo is unknown, but it appears that the destruction of the original penned by Clayton would have limited subsequent first-hand knowledge of the revelation’s content.

  1. George Albert Smith, in Journal of Discourses, 14:213 (August 13, 1871).  (back)
  2. Cyrus Wheelock, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony, part 3, page 539, question 79.  (back)
  3. Cyrus Wheelock, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony, part 3, page 542, question 141–42; page 540, question 96. The names of the other men were Joseph Bates Noble, Daniel Davis, and two men with the surnames of Van Alstine and Williams.  (back)
  4. “That Nauvoo Discourse,” Deseret Evening News, April 8, 1904.  (back)
  5. Charles Smith, Remarks at Saint George Stake November 26, 1882, General Minutes, LR 7836, Reel 1, CHL.  (back)
  6. The Nauvoo Expositor, Nauvoo, Illinois, n.p., June 7, 1844, 2.  (back)
  7. Malissa Lott, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony, part 3, page 101, questions 165–69.  (back)
  8. Mercy Rachel Thompson, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony, part 3, page 250, question 244.  (back)
  9. Undated quotation in Joseph Smith III, “Plural Marriage in America,” The Arena XXIX, no. 5 (May, 1903), page 460.  (back)
  10. “An important Testimony,” letter of Mercy R. Thompson to A. M. Musser, January 31, 1886, published in the Deseret News, Feb. 6, 1886 [no page number].  (back)
  11. Lucy Walker, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony, part 3, page 452, questions 66–68.  (back)
  12. Charles Lambert, “Autobiography [ca. 1885],” typescript, MS 1130, Folder 1, page 16, CHL.  (back)
  13. Mary Ann West, Deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony (part 3), page 525, question 748.  (back)
  14. Mary Ann West, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent’s testimony,part 3, pages 523–24, question 717.  (back)