I’ve outlined a number of my objections to Meg Stout’s series on Joseph Smith and polygamy. The biggest problem with her stuff is that it rests on assertions with no evidence whatsoever, and I’ve pointed them out. In the interest of fairness, I would like to give Meg Stout an opportunity to provide documentary evidence for the following assertions:
Elvira Annie Cowles, of all the plural wives Joseph would covenant with, appears to have promised Emma that she would not enter into a Covenant with Joseph until after Emma herself had accepted the Covenant.
Assuming Joseph approached Elvira about joining him in the New and Everlasting Covenant as a plural wife during September 1840, Elvira also understood one other thing about plural marriage. The first wife had to agree–Emma would have to give her consent.
When Dr. Bennett began to court, I suggest Elvira Annie Cowles was very likely the woman he sought.
By April 1841 Joseph Smith knew he couldn’t trust Dr. Bennett. Elvira Cowles wouldn’t marry him. … Joseph Bates Noble wouldn’t take a plural wife.
The marriage between Joseph Smith and Louisa Beaman likely remained unconsummated.
Bennett and Sarah Pratt became fully intimate.
I believe it is during this discussion that Bennett confessed to his adultery with Sarah Pratt.
Bennett was forced to be friends with a man he’d cuckolded, forced to endure while that man enjoyed all the benefits of being back home. Bennett had to go through the performance of his duties knowing that Smith would never permit him any more opportunities for advancement.
Bennett saw an opportunity to possess the one he desired.
Perhaps he was already aware of how unhappy lack of intimacy had made Louisa Beaman. It would be unreasonable to expect other single women to be satisfied with a marriage that didn’t involve physical intimacy. But these married women would be relieved if the celestial marriage were purely ceremonial.
As the investigation unfolded, Joseph came to suspect one woman of being the first to be seduced by the unknown band of evil-doers.
I believe Mary came to the attention of Dr. Bennett because she was still in her thirties, yet had not produced children for more than a decade. He had to have a first victim. He also had to train his acolytes how to seduce women without causing pregnancy. The barren Mary Heron would not conceive if the man assigned to seduce her failed to follow Bennett’s instructions on having sex without risk of procreation. This kind of sex may have included the sometimes synonymous practices of onanism, petting, vulvar massage, frottage, and frigging.
I believe Bennett and his ring succeeded in gaining access to members of the Johnson family, including Delcena, Marinda, and Almera.
The tale of Mary Heron allows us to pinpoint when Joseph Smith could have learned of the abuse Bennett and his followers were systematically inflicting on women in Nauvoo, the beginning of the desperate hunt for the seducers in Joseph’s City Beautiful.
On this 172nd anniversary of the founding of Relief Society, let me tell you of the manhunt I believe Joseph and Emma Smith conducted together, trying to identify those abusing the women of Nauvoo during the fall and winter of 1841/1842.
Joseph went from sealing women to himself for the purpose of obeying the commandment to sealing women to himself as part of either securing their loyalty or offering them protection. As some of these women were also working closely with Emma, I believe Joseph was keeping Emma informed of the situation. She had an absolute and clear need to know, particularly after March 17, 1842.
Even though Joseph eventually came to believe Mary Heron had been the first to be abused, I propose Nancy Winchester was the first victim discovered.
I believe those who attacked a teenage Nancy had intended to seduce Clarissa Marvel, an orphan girl who lived with Agnes Coolbrith Smith and had spread rumors about the visits Joseph Smith was making to his widowed sister-in-law.
Involving Sylvia Lyon in the investigation indicates Joseph and Emma feared a drug was being used to molest women. Involving Patty Sessions indicates Joseph and Emma now feared the molestations may have resulted in pregnancies.
However if the Times and Seasons had become a location frequented by Bennett’s ring, the shooting could have an alternate interpretation, one of Willard warning everyone that there was new management in the building, and that they could take their unholy business elsewhere.
By April, Marinda was assisting Joseph’s investigation.
However if you read the correspondence between Joseph and Nancy with the idea that Joseph was hunting out guilty men, who had enthralled Nancy as her “suitors,” it becomes clear that he was desperately trying to win her soul back from the corrupted path she was beginning to take.
I propose that the abusers had swept up the widow Delcena in their predations, and that Delcena was the individual who informed Joseph of what had happened to her and to Mary Heron. If such damage had been done to Delcena, Louisa stepped up to become Delcena’s protector. Louisa provided a home, shared the resources she had, and could provide Delcena an understanding of the New and Everlasting Covenant to combat the tales of the seducers.
[The Nauvoo census was] a crucial step in the investigation.
Around this time Joseph attempted to talk with Sarah Kimball about the New and Everlasting Covenant, likely as a prerequisite for formally involving her in the investigation.
Nancy and Martha looked on extended members of that ring as their suitors.
All of these assertions are crucial to Ms. Stout’s thesis that Joseph’s practice of polygamy was really an investigation into sexual sin in Nauvoo. None of these assertions has any basis in documentary evidence. If there is such evidence, I invite Ms. Stout to provide it.