One troublesome allegation against Joseph Smith accuses him of ephebophilia, the attraction of older individuals to adolescents. Available evidence indicates he was sealed to two women who were fourteen at the time.
The list of Joseph Smith's plural wives contains ten names of women under the age of twenty who were sealed to him:
Helen Mar Kimball 14
Nancy M. Winchester 14?
Flora Ann Woodworth 16
Sarah Ann Whitney 17
Sarah Lawrence 17
Lucy Walker 17
Fanny Alger [16-19]
Emily Dow Partridge 19
Maria Lawrence 19
Malissa Lott 19
Critics have readily assumed that since they were sealed to Joseph Smith as plural wives, they were also sleeping with him. Is there any historical evidence to support these charges?
Attorney Melina McTigue observed that concerning the civil statutes governing the age of consent for sexual relations during the 1800s: “Early English law set the age of consent at ten, the age was gradually raised over the years. In the nineteenth century, most states had set the age of consent at ten. A few states began by using twelve as the cutoff; Delaware set the age of consent at seven.” The minimum age for consent in Illinois at that time was ten.
Regardless, the age of consent may have little or no correspondence to the average age of first marriage. Available research shows that in Joseph Smith’s day, marriages to fourteen year-old girls were legal, but rare. The Nauvoo City Council passed an ordinance specifying the minimum ages for marriage, which recited Illinois State law verbatim: “All male persons over the age of seventeen years, and females over the age of fourteen years, may contract and be joined in marriage, provided, in all cases where either party is a minor, the consent of parents or guardians be first had.”
A few accounts of brides as young as fourteen can be identified in historical documents dating back to the pre-1900s. Stephanie Coontz, author of Marriage , a History, acknowledged that “in the area of classic patriarchy… girls are married at very young ages.” Elvina Apperson Fellows left a memoir describing her marriage at age fourteen: “In 1851 Mother was pretty hard run to earn enough money for us to live on, so when a man named Julius Thomas, a cook in a restaurant, offered to marry me, Mother thought I had better take him, so I did. He was 44 and I was 14.”
Importantly, when analyzing the ages of women’s first marriages, data derived from monogamous unions may not apply to polygamous marriages. This is because the sexual dynamics in monogamous and polygamous marriages may be very different. Male polygamists could experience sexual relations with their other plural wives, thus facilitating sealings to younger women where in conjugality would be postponed. In contrast, monogamist men would be less willing to delay sexuality with their single wife, thus motivating them to marry older women who would be capable of bearing children immediately. Hence assuming a parallel may not be justified.
Undoubtedly one of the biggest deterrents to pubescent brides throughout human history arose from the complications arising from the physiological immaturity of many fourteen-year old women. Men and women were aware that physically immature females could be harmed or killed during delivery due to undeveloped boney pelvis, which creates a narrowed birth canal that is too small for the baby’s head to pass (dystocia).
With respect to Joseph Smith’s two eternal sealings to fourteen-year-olds, some observers quickly assume that since a plural marriage ceremony had been performed, he was automatically sleeping with them. In fact, there is no evidence to support that sexual relations were included in those relationships. While we have no firsthand accounts outlining Joseph Smith’s counsel on marriages to young girls, Brigham Young taught that young wives should be left to mature. Eugene E. Campbell described Brigham’s instructions given in Utah:
One of the more distressing developments was the number of men asking Young for permission to marry girls too young to bear children. To one man at Fort Supply, Young explained, "I don't object to your taking sisters named in your letter to wife if they are not too young and their parents and your president and all connected are satisfied, but I do not want children to be married to men before an age which their mothers can generally best determine." Writing to another man in Spanish Fork, he said, "Go ahead and marry them, but leave the children to grow." A third man in Alpine City was instructed, "It is your privilege to take more wives, but set a good example to the people, and leave the children long enough with their parents to get their growth, strength and maturity." To Louis Robinson, head of the church at Fort Bridger, Young advised, "Take good women, but let the children grow, then they will be able to bear children after a few years without injury." Another man in Santa Clara was told that it would be wise to marry an Indian girl but only if she were mature. Still another man wanted Young to counsel him concerning a sister who proposed to give him her twelve-year-old daughter.
Excommunicated Latter-day Saint Fanny Stenhouse wrote in 1872 concerning marriage patterns in Utah: “There is no particular age specified as proper for marriage, but the younger the girl is, the better. It is seldom that there are any girls married under fifteen years of age; but sixteen is a very sweet age.”
C.C. Rich took a bride of 14 years though he did not live with her until she was 18 years old. In 1856, John D. Lee was sealed to his sixteenth wife, twelve-year old Mary Ann Williams. However, the marriage was not consummated and she later fell in love with John D. Lee’s oldest son, John Alma Lee. John D. Lee relented his claim on Mary Ann, allowing her to marry his son John Alma Lee, being wed January 18, 1859. Future Church President Wilford Woodruff married a fifteen year old named Emma Smith on March 13, 1853. Concerning that marriage, historian Thomas G. Alexander surmised:
[Brigham ] Young… sealed Wilford, who had turned forty-six twelve days before, to fifteen-year-old Emma Smith and nineteen-year-old Sarah Brown. Sarah presented him with a son, David Patten Woodruff, the following year on April 4. He probably refrained from sexual relations with Emma until she became older, since she did not bear her first child, Hyrum Smith Woodruff, until October 4, 1857, seven months after she turned nineteen.
One study showed that the average age for plural wives married in one area of Utah was around twenty.
Lorenzo Snow and Eleanor Houtz (b. 1831) made a promise to be married when she was just fourteen. However, they were not married for three more years:
While the Houtz family were still living in Nauvoo, on a Sunday, Elenor and her parents were leaving church when Lorenzo Snow joined them. As they walked along, Lorenzo asked Elenor if she would promise to one day become his wife. Though, at the time, she was only fourteen she did make that promise. It has been erroneously written that she married at fourteen but church records and a letter written by Elenor to her Uncle Jacob Houtz, state her marriage date as 19 January 1848. She was married at Mt Pisgah by Brigham Young. In her letter she said, "….married at the horn today and soon we shall start for the Salt Lake valley but since the brethren are leaving today I send you this message I am now a Snow and darlin sis Eliza tole me she is proud to be my sister uncle jacob and she said I had digneetee and graceness and I wish to be…”
In another account, but with a different young woman, Lorenzo Snow was sealed, but conjugal relations were not commenced. Rufus David Johnson wrote of events that occurred in in 1845: “At this time she [Mary Adaline Goddard] was the plural wife of a prominent man [Lorenzo Snow] who held a high position later in the Church. This man’s wife was a Goddard and when he was advised to take another wife, she persuaded Hannah to be sealed to him, although she was still in her early teens. After the ceremony she became frightened at the thought of marriage and ran home to her mother. We are confident that they never lived together.”
Mosiah Hancock recalled his sealing to Mary Dunn in the Nauvoo Temple in 1846. She was two months past her twelfth birthday and he was three weeks shy of his:
On about January 10, 1846, I was privileged to go in the temple… I was sealed to a lovely young girl named Mary, who was about my age, but it was with the understanding that we were not to live together as man and wife until we were 16 years of age. The reason that some were sealed so young was because we knew that we would have to go West and wait many a long time for another temple.
It does not appear that the couple ever consummated the union, even four years later. They had no children together and each married other spouses in Utah. Mary wed Martin Luther Ensign in Salt Lake City in 1852 and had nine children.
One of Joseph Smith’s two fourteen-year-old plural wives was Helen Mar Kimball. Current evidence suggests that Helen’s father brokered the union in his desires to win the favor of the Prophet. As quoted earlier, Helen wrote: “He [her father – Heber C. Kimball] taught me the principle of Celestial marriage and having a great desire to be connected with the Prophet, Joseph, he offered me to him; this I afterwards learned from the Prophet’s own mouth. My father had but one ewe lamb, but willingly laid her upon the alter.” Richard Anderson observed: “Helen says several times that her father took the initiative to arrange the marriage and very possibly he did so with a view to committing her to the Prophet before her budding social life produced a choice or a proposal [from someone else].”
Available documents indicate the Joseph’s role was not completely passive in that he taught Helen Mar concerning the principle after Helen’s father, Heber, introduced her to the topic. It is obvious that Helen’s sealing was for both time and eternity. In 1886 Helen related to a Brother Hyrum Kimball that she “was sealed to the Prophet in Nauvoo.” She wrote: “He was astonished and so was I that he was ignorant of this fact.” What is not obvious regarding the sealing is whether sexual relations were ever initiated.
D. Michael Quinn wrote that “fourteen-year-old Helen Mar Kimball… later testified that he [Joseph Smith] had sexual relations with [her].” However, Quinn provides no documentation for this bold statement and I have not encountered any. Researcher Michael Marquardt disagreed: “Helen Kimball’s sealing to Joseph Smith was a spiritual one unlike other wives who had sexual relations with the prophet.” Todd Compton claims a more central position: “Some conclude that Helen Mar Kimball, who married Smith when she was fourteen, did not have marital relations with him. This is possible, as there are cases of Mormons in Utah marrying young girls and refraining from sexual relations until they were older. But the evidence for Helen Mar is entirely ambiguous in my view.”
My review of all available documents fails to identify any declaration or evidence supporting the existence of conjugal relations between Helen and the Prophet during their thirteen-month marriage. The primary document referring to the relationship is an 1881 poem penned by Helen:
I thought through this life my time will be my own The step I now am taking’s for eternity alone, No one need be the wiser, through time I shall be free, And as the past hath been the future still will be. To my guileless heart all free from worldly care And full of blissful hopes and youthful visions rare The world seamed bright the thret’ning clouds were kept From sight and all looked fair but pitying angels wept. They saw my youthful friends grow shy and cold. And poisonous darts from sland’rous tongues were hurled, Untutor’d heart in thy gen’rous sacrafise, Thou dids’t not weigh the cost nor know the bitter price; Thy happy dreams all o’er thou’st doom’d also to be Bar’d out from social scenes by this thy destiny, And o’er thy sad’nd mem’ries of sweet departed joys Thy sicken’d heart will brood and imagine future woes, And like a fetter’d bird with wild and longing heart, Thou’lt dayly pine for freedom and murmor at thy lot;
But could’st thou see the future & view that glorious crown, Awaiting you in Heaven you would not weep nor mourn. Pure and exalted was thy father’s aim, he saw A glory in obeying this high celestial law, For to thousands who’ve died without the light I will bring eternal joy & make thy crown more bright. I’d been taught to reveire the Prophet of God And receive every word as the word of the Lord, But had this not come through my dear father’s mouth, I should ne’r have received it as God’s sacred truth.
One year later she wrote:
During the winter of 1843, there were plenty of parties and balls… Some of the young gentlemen got up a series of dancing parties, to be held at the Mansion once a week… I had to stay home, as my father had been warned by the Prophet to keep his daughter away from there, because of the blacklegs and certain ones of questionable character who attended there… I felt quite sore over it, and thought it a very unkind act in father to allow [my brother] to go and enjoy the dance unrestrained with others of my companions, and fetter me down, for no girl loved dancing better than I did, and I really felt that it was too much to bear. It made the dull school still more dull, and like a wild bird I longer for the freedom that was denied me; and thought myself a much abused child, and that it was pardonable if I did murmur.
It is clear that Helen’s sealing to Joseph Smith prevented her from socializing as an unmarried lady. After leaving the Church, dissenter Catherine Lewis reported Helen’s saying: “I would never have been sealed to Joseph had I known it was anything more than ceremony.”
Regardless, these writings seem to show that her disappointment and rebellion were not directed towards a new sexual relationship with Joseph Smith. Instead, her frustrations were derived from the constraints resulting from the sealing, the elimination of laughing, dancing, and socializing with her peers, who subsequently shut her out from their group enjoyments and good times.
If Helen were physically involved with the Prophet during their thirteen-month marriage, her anticipation of pregnancy and other wifely responsibilities might have made it clear she was no longer single. In view of the conservative sexual standards embraced at that time, her longings to dance with teenage boys and otherwise socialize may have been subdued as she submitted to her wifehood and possible motherhood. On the other hand, if no physical intimacy was included because of her physical immaturity, the marriage would seem more symbolic than real, except as it prevented her from associating with her friends, causing much consternation. Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball’s biographer, concurred:
Many years later in Utah she [Helen] wrote a retrospective poem about this marriage from which we learn that it was “for eternity alone,” that is, unconsummated. Whatever such a marriage promised for the next world, it brought her no immediate earthly happiness. She saw herself as a “fetter’d bird” without youthful friends and a subject of slander. This poem also reveals that Joseph Smith’s several pro forma marriages to the daughters of his friends were anything but sexual romps. Furthermore, the poem reinforces the idea that, despite the trials of plurality in mortality, a “glorious crown” awaited the faithful and obedient in heaven.
The lack of evidence does not prove the lack of sexual relations, but the pattern of waiting until the women were mature as taught in Utah undoubtedly began in Nauvoo. As observed, Joseph contracted many other eternal sealings that did not include conjugal relations.
The second fourteen-year-old is Nancy M. Winchester, born August 10, 1828. Compton places a question mark by her age, indicating a lack of knowledge of when, if ever, she may have wed the prophet. Two late sources support that at some point she might have been sealed to Joseph Smith. The first is her inclusion by Eliza R. Snow. Eliza may have been the only witness to affirm that Nancy Maria was sealed to Joseph Smith while he was living. Winchester’s name is mentioned only one additional time in Jenson’s notes, having been copied onto a second comprehensive list. No additional information was apparently collected concerning her involvement with the Prophet. Perhaps relying on his own understanding, in his article Jenson mistakenly wrote: "Maria Winchester, daughter of Benjamin Winchester." In fact, Nancy Maria Winchester was the daughter of Stephen and Nancy Winchester and a sister to Benjamin.
In looking at the possible source of Eliza R. Snow’s knowledge of young Maria Winchester, some circumstantial evidence produces questions. During the months of January and February of 1846, proxy sealings to Joseph Smith were performed on fifteen different days. Four such sealing ceremonies were performed on February 3rd including both Eliza’s and Nancy Maria’s. The two sealings were about four hours apart, but it is possible that Eliza learned of the sealing and thereby simply assumed that Nancy Maria had been sealed to Joseph Smith during his lifetime. Regardless, discovering that Eliza was Andrew Jenson’s source for the inclusion of Nancy Maria Winchester strengthens the overall probability.
The other piece of evidence supporting Nancy's position as a plural wife of the Prophet comes from Orson F. Whitney, who was the son of Joseph Smith’s plural wife Helen Mar Kimball. It seems likely that Orson would have received information from his mother who was still living at the time his list was published. However, the year after Jenson's publication was printed Orson wrote that Nancy Maria Winchester was one of nine "wives of the Prophet who wedded Heber C. Kimball." Whitney's list also includes Mary Houston, and Sarah Scott, who are not believed to have been sealed to Joseph during his lifetime and were not names provided first hand to Jenson by Eliza R. Snow. While Todd Compton treats Whitney as an independent source, it is possible that Orson F. Whitney learned of Nancy's reported sealing to the Prophet by reading the Historical Record the year before. We have no way of knowing whether Whitney possessed independent verification or not. Rather than two distinct sources, Andrew Jenson and Orson Whitney may represent one source.
It is curious that Nancy's brother, Benjamin, failed to give evidence of her marriage to Joseph. Benjamin had many negative things to say about the Prophet, even accusing him of adultery in Philadelphia in 1840, and criticizing him several times in later writings. But throughout it all, Benjamin never mentioned a plural marriage or any improper relations between Joseph and his fourteen year old sister. This might be because there was no marriage or because Benjamin was simply unaware of the sealing. Had Benjamin been aware, he would likely have condemned the plural union.
Historians Scott Faulring and Richard L. Anderson argue that the "cumulative evidence argument for such marginal references [supporting Winchester as one of Joseph's plural wives] does not meet historical guidelines" and Winchester should not be included. However, they were undoubtedly unaware of the opinion of Eliza R. Snow. While it appears that Nancy Maria Winchester was fourteen or fifteen when she was sealed to Joseph Smith, no documentation exists suggesting that she was sexually involved with the Prophet at any time.
In light of all the manuscript evidence currently available, anyone claiming that Joseph Smith was sexually involved with fourteen-year-old females is going beyond the evidence.
 Melina McTigue, “Statutory Rape Law Reform in Nineteenth Century Maryland: An Analysis of Theory and Practical Change,” (2002 ) http://www.law.georgetown.edu/glh/mctigue.htm (accessed April 14, 2007).
 Mary E. Odem, Delinquent Daughters: Protecting and Policing Adolescent Female Sexuality in the United States, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1995, 14.
 “Nauvoo Records,” “An Ordinance Concerning Marriages passed February 17, 1842,” MS 16800, CHL. This coincided with the Illinois minimum ages for marriage.
 Philip J. Greven, Jr., “Family Structure in Seventeenth-Century Andover, Massachusetts,” in The American Family in Social-Historical Perspective, Michael Gordon, ed., New York: St. Martin’s Press, 3rd ed., 140. [136-53]
 Stephanie Coontz, Marriage, a History: from Obedience to Intimacy or How Love Conquered Marriage, New York: Penguin, 2005, 131.
 Quoted in Marilyn Yalom, A History of the Wife, New York: HarperCollins, 2002, 240. The marriage was very unhappy for Elvina.
 Eugene E. Campbell, Establishing Zion: The Mormon Church in the American West 1847-1869 (SLC: Signature Books, 1988), p. 198 note 5. Anti-Mormon writer Jules Remy asserted in 1861 that six years previous he heard Brigham Young state: “Let me see no more boys above sixteen and girls above fourteen unmarried.” (Jules Remy and Julius Brenchley, A Journey to Great-Salt-Lake City, London: W. Jeffs, volume two, 1861, 60. This allegation, directly contradicts written evidence from Brigham Young as cited in the text. Remy was known to make other outlandish claims.
 Linda Wilcox DeSimone, ed., Fanny Stenhouse: Expose of Polygamy, A Lady’s Life among the Mormons,” Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2008, 129.
 Kimball Young, Isn’t One Wife Enough? New York: Henry Hold, 1954, 177.
 John D. Lee, Mormonism Unveiled, or, The Life and Confessions of the Late Mormon Bishop, John D. Lee. Ed. W. W. Bishop. St. Louis: Byron, Brand, 1877, 289. The Ancestral File lists Mary Ann’s birthday as September 10, 1844, so she may have been only eleven. Todd Compton wrote that she was fourteen in 1856 (In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997, 638).
 Juanita Brooks, John Doyle Lee: Zealot-Pioneer Scapegoat. Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Co., 1973, 233, 239-40.
 Thomas G. Alexander, Things in Heaven and Earth: The Life and Times of Wilford Woodruff, a Mormon Prophet. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1991, 168.
 Larry Logue, "A Time of Marriage: Mormon Monogamy and Polygamy in a Utah Town." Journal of Mormon History 11 (1984): 13 [3-26].
 Bray (Glenn), Mildred H., "Elenor Houtz Snow" Biographical Sketch (typed), of Bountiful, Utah, (Page stamps say "Daughters of the Utah Pioneers") MS 12145, CHL, pages 2-3.
 Rufus David Johnson, J. E. J. Trail to Sundown: Cassadaga to Casa Grande 1817-1882, n.p. n.d, 141.
 Amy E. Baird, Victoria H. Jackson, and Laura L. Wassell, compilers, “Mosiah Lyman Hancock Autobiography (1834-1865),” typescript, BYU-S; published version by Pioneer Press, Salt Lake City, undated, 20-21.
 Typescript and copy of holograph reproduced in Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1997, 482-87.
 Richard L. Anderson to Dawn Comfort, May 9-15, 1998, copy of letter in Scott H. Faulring Papers, box 93, fds 1-3, (accn 2316), Marriott Library.
 Charles M Hatch and Todd M. Compton eds., A Widow’s Tale, the 1884-1896 Diary of Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, Logan, Utah: Utah State University Press, 2003, 169, entry for July11, 1886.
 D. Michael Quinn, The Mormon Hierarchy: Origins of Power. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1994, 639.
 Michael Marquardt, The Rise of Mormonism: 1816-1844, Longwood, Florida: Xulon Press, 2005, 609.
 Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1997, 14.
 Helen Mar Kimball Whitney, “Autobiography, 30 March, 1881,” CHL. Typescript and copy of holograph reproduced in Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1997, 482-87.
 Woman’s Exponent, vol. 11, no. 12, November 15, 1882, 90; see Jeni Broberg Holzapfel and Richard Neitzel Holzapfel, eds., A Woman’s View: Helen Mar Whitney’s Reminiscences of Early Church History, Provo, Utah: Religious Studies Center, BYU, 1997, 224.
 Catherine Lewis, Narrative of Some of the Proceedings of the Mormons; Giving an Account of their Iniquities, Lynn, Mass: by the author, 1848, 19.
 Stanley B. Kimball, Heber C. Kimball: Mormon Patriarch and Pioneer (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1981), 98.
 While it is possible that Nancy Maria was sealed to the Prophet after August 10, 1843, thus making her fifteen not fourteen, such a sealing would have been contrary to Joseph’s apparent agreement with Emma on July 13th, to stop marrying plural wives. If, as I argue, conjugal relations were not included until plural wives were more mature, it is possible that the Prophet allowed the sealing, anticipating that when Nancy Maria was more mature, Emma would have become more accepting of full polygamy.
 Don Bradley is responsible for this discovery. The handwriting has been compared to other samples from Eliza R. Snow’s penmanship during this same period showing unmistakable similarities and idiosyncrasies. Jill Derr, author of several articles on Eliza, concurs that “Eliza R. Snow had a very distinctive hand,” and the handwriting on the Jenson document is hers. (Conversation July 25, 2008 while examining the Jenson document.)
 Andrew Jenson, “Plural Marriage,” Historical Record 6 (July 1887): 234.
 Dates are January 12, 13, 14, 15, 17, 22, 24, 26, 27, 31, February 2, 3, 4, 6, 8. (See Lisle Brown, Nauvoo Sealings, Adoptions, and Anointings: a Comprehensive Register of Persons Receiving LDS Temple Ordinances, 1841-1846, Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2006, 281-85; Brown also includes January 11, which appears to be in error. The January 11 sealing of Marinda Nancy Johnson was to her legal husband, Orson Hyde, not a proxy sealing to Joseph Smith See Thomas Milton Tinney, The Royal Family of the Prophet Joseph Smith, Jr. Salt Lake City: Tinney-Greene Family Organization, 1973, 8-12.
 Orson F. Whitney, Life of Heber C. Kimball, nineth ed., 1945, Salt Lake City: Book Craft, 418-19.
 Richard Lloyd Anderson and Scott H. Faulring, "Review of In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, by Todd M. Compton," FARMS Review of Books, (Provo, Utah: Maxwell" Institute, 10/2 (1998), 77. [67-104]