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Books by Brian C. Hales dealing with "Mormon fundamentalist" polygamy:

Alleged Sexual Impropriety between Joseph Smith and

Elizabeth Ann Whitney             

Source:

Wyl, W., pseud. [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal]. Mormon Portraits, or the Truth About Mormon Leaders From 1830 to 1886. Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886, 90.

Accusation: 

“Elizabeth Ann Whitney, the second ‘lady,’ [of the Relief Society], had been seduced by Joseph.”[1] 

Discussion:

Sarah Pratt is the only witness to this alleged seduction.  No other historical accounts, anti-Mormon or otherwise, repeat this allegation, nor has my research found any sexual or polygamous connection between the Prophet and Elizabeth Ann Whitney.  That Pratt would have been privy to such information is less likely; she was never admitted as a member of the Nauvoo Relief Society, probably due to concerns about her character.[2]

Elizabeth Ann Whitney and her husband, Bishop Newell K. Whitney, accepted the principle of plural marriage in the summer of 1842 and subsequently consented to the sealing of their daughter, Sarah Ann, to Joseph Smith.  Three days later, Elizabeth and Newell were sealed for time and eternity by the Prophet.  In 1878, Elizabeth recalled: 

It was during the time we lived at the brick store that Joseph received the revelation pertaining to celestial marriage [D&C 132]… He had been strictly charged by the angel who committed these precious things into his keeping that he should only reveal them to such persons as were pure, full of integrity to the truth, and worthy to be entrusted with divine messages; that to spread them abroad would only be like casting pearls before swine, and that the most profound secrecy must be maintained, until the Lord saw fit to make it known publicly through His servants. Joseph had the most implicit confidence in my husband's uprightness and integrity of character; he knew him capable of keeping a secret, and was not afraid to confide in him...  He therefore confided to him, and a few others, the principles set forth in that revelation, and also gave him the privilege to read it and to make a copy of it, knowing it would be perfectly safe with him. It was this veritable copy, which was preserved, in the providence of God, that has since been published to the world…
My husband revealed these things to me; we had always been united, and had the utmost faith and confidence in each other. We pondered upon them continually, and our prayers were unceasing that the Lord would grant us some special manifestation concerning this new and strange doctrine. The Lord was very merciful to us; He revealed unto us His power and glory. We were seemingly wrapt in a heavenly vision, a halo of light encircled us, and we were convinced in our own minds that God heard and approved our prayers and intercedings before Him. Our hearts were comforted...[3]  

In addition, Elizabeth appears to have retained her belief in Joseph Smith as a Prophet throughout her life.  In 1879, she recounted:  “He [Joseph Smith] prophesied to me that I should have another daughter, who would be a strength and support to me to soothe my declining years.”[4]  This prophesy probably occurred near the sealing date of their daughter, Sarah Ann, to the Prophet on July 27, 1842.  Elizabeth also noted: 

“In January, 1844, my youngest daughter was born.  She was the first child born heir to the Holy Priesthood, and in the New and Everlasting Covenant in this dispensation.”[5]

Summary:

As with Sarah Pratt's other accusations, numerous problems are identified.  She presents a significant charge against Joseph Smith, but it is singular, unsubstantiated by any other witness.  In addition, Elizabeth’s behavior in Nauvoo and throughout her life fails to support that she may have been seduced by the Prophet as alleged, which behavior would have been adultery and hypocritical for both of them.   


[1] Wyl, W., pseud. [Wilhelm Ritter von Wymetal]. Mormon Portraits, or the Truth About Mormon Leaders From 1830 to 1886. Salt Lake City: Tribune Printing and Publishing Co., 1886, 90.

[2] Maurine C. Ward, “This Institution Is a Good One”: The Female Relief Society of Nauvoo, 17 March 1842 to 16 March 1844,” Mormon Historical Studies, vol. 3, no. 2, Fall 2002, 172 [87-203]

[3] Elizabeth Whitney, “Autobiography,” Woman's Exponent 7 (Dec. 15, 1878):105; see also Carol Cornwall Madsen, ed.,  In Their Own Words: Women and the Story of Nauvoo. Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1994, 201-02.

[4] Elizabeth Ann Whitney, “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, February 15, 1879, vol. 7, no. 18, page 191.

[5] Elizabeth Ann Whitney, “A Leaf from an Autobiography,” Woman’s Exponent, February 15, 1879, vol. 7, no. 18, page 191.