An Opportunity for Meg Stout

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.

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13 Responses to An Opportunity for Meg Stout

  1. sean says:

    I was going to leave a much longer and perhaps more pithy response but in the interest of brevity, here is a possibility for both sides of this argument to consider:

    Perhaps our premise that God only works through pure and undefiled individuals is wrong. Perhaps Paul was right when he said that:

    “All have sinned and come short of the glory of God.”

    Was and is Joseph the great prophet of the restoration?

    I believe he is.

    Was Joseph guilty of seduction and sex and a whole laundry list of sins?

    I believe he was.

    In spite of this, did God continue to work his marvelous work through the man?

    I believe he did.

    What then is the premise upon which I base this heresy?

    Faith and Repentance.

    Joseph was a man of faith and a man who repented.

    That is all that Christ ever taught, that is all he ever required.

    The only use, by Christ of the term worthy, was to remind us that we aren’t.

    By simply abandoning the destructive premise that God demands pure and undefiled people to do his work, we are freed from the endless bickering that comes from trying to preserve our faith (faith on both sides of the argument).

    There is no need to use the evidence (and I believe it points to his guilt) of Joseph’s sinful activity to prove the falsehood of the Gospel and his restoration.

    And in like manner there is no need to tie ourselves into impossible knots to preserve a faith based on a false premise.

    How do I arrive at such a obvious and liberating premise?

    Simple.

    I know the evil in my heart, both imagined, and realized.

    I also know the miraculous way that God continues to interact with me, often in the very midst of my sinful behavior.

    Furthermore, every person of faith that I know intimately, finds themselves in exactly the same position.

    Imagine, Joseph did what he did, both the evil and the good.

    And you and I do what we do, both the evil and the good.

    And God blesses, and empowers and magnifies our efforts for the good, and frankly and freely forgives our evil.

    And all that is required of us is to have faith and repent and forgive like he does.

    I am probably wrong, but I intend to ride this pony to the end of this race.

    God bless you all.

  2. Andrew says:

    I’ll just leave this here 🙂

  3. Andrew says:

    From now on, anytime I post a comment to Meg’s blog, I’m going to archive it here so the world can see the types of questions she doesn’t want to answer.

    http://imgur.com/tHHe8pu

    • runtu says:

      I give up. She won’t document any of her assertions (because she can’t), and instead tells us that the only evidence of sexuality is Emily Partridge’s “Yes, Sir.” It isn’t, and I’ve already covered this.

      I can respect people who interpret evidence differently, but I can’t respect people who make shit up and then act like we’re supposed to just take their word for it.

      Seriously, if this is what it takes to defend Joseph Smith, he’s not worth defending.

  4. Meg Stout says:

    Hi John,

    Sorry for the delay. You have inferred things from that delay that are not correct. I’m just busy.

    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.

    I base this on my own confusion and years of seeking regarding why Elvira wasn’t sealed to Joseph until June 1843, when she had been living in the Smith home as governess for over three years. Andrew Jensen had speculated that Elvira was Joseph’s first plural wife, as clearly evidenced by the letter Elvira’s daughter, Marietta, wrote in response to Andrew Jensen’s query. The June 1843 date has to be right (and not a typo) because we see a Partridge sister standing as witness, which would not be possible prior to March 1843.

    Per Jonathan Harriman Holmes’ version of events, Elvira was Joseph’s wife, and Jonathan only became her husband after Joseph’s death, at Joseph’s request, and based on Elvira’s decision to accept him as such (family history for Elvira’s descendants, also corroborated by a letter provided to the Church in the early 1900s by a Brother Wright. I provided Brian Hales information on who that Brother Wright was and the likely chain of events that caused Brother Wright to know about Elvira’s marital history). Yet it is well-documented that Jonathan is publicly married to Elvira in December 1842, six months before the sealing to Joseph. And no children are produced by this marriage until about 7 months (plus 40 weeks) after Joseph’s death.

    Thus we have a phenomenon where Elvira Cowles is apparently provided a pretend husband months before she even covenants with Joseph. This same man is one about whom Eliza Snow writes a poem titled Conjugal, a poem which Eliza clearly modified in an uncharacteristic manner, scraping the original word off the paper. However the initial and terminal letters (along with the length of the missing word) suggest this word was “angels”. Understanding the meaning of that word in 1843 for Mormons, it appears Eliza was writing originally about the eternal union of Jonathan to his deceased wife, Marietta, which raises the possibility that Jonathan was originally intended as pretend husband for Eliza Snow.

    The event that appears to precipitate the sealing to Elvira Cowles is the sealing earlier that week of Joseph Smith to Emma Hale.

    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.

    Or maybe Joseph just had really bad halitosis.

    When Dr. Bennett began to court, I suggest Elvira Annie Cowles was very likely the woman he sought.

    Dr. Bennett and Elvira Annie Cowles lived in the same house (the Smith Homestead) for months during the timeframe when he could have been legitimately courting anyone. When signatures were sought supporting Joseph (at the expense of Bennett), Elvira’s signature is missing. Elvira was a relatively high-profile and learned female in Nauvoo, a fit consort to a man such as Bennett (when he believed the fact of his prior marriage could remain hidden).

    Eliza Snow may have slept with Bennett, based on her November 1842 poem, but in no way does she qualify as a “young woman.”

    Do you have another female you’d like to put forward as the young woman Joseph reported Bennett had been courting in the July 1842 Times and Seasons articles?

    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.

    George Miller’s March 2 letter would have had plenty time to reach Joseph by April. The idea that Joseph, knowing Bennett stood accused, would assign him to the position of Assistant President of the Church, strains credulity. However a Bennett who had answered the accusation of past deceptions and had confessed to a living wife is the kind of man Joseph might reprove betimes with sharpness, afterwards showing for an increase of love. Along with the prestige of the Asst President position came a level of interaction that would allow Joseph to keep tabs on any attempt Bennett might make to repeat his past professionally deceptive behavior. However I don’t think Joseph ever suspected Bennett would use that position to gain access to sexual favors, or that he would use his position (when discovered, say, by Backenstos) to teach others that illicit sex was approved by the Church.

    Elvira didn’t marry Joseph at that time, despite being an intimate of the home (and the later odd behavior where it appears she was the first actually given the protection of a pretend husband, despite not even being sealed yet to Joseph).

    Joseph Bates Noble was taught in that timeframe about plural marriage. He himself would not enter into such a marriage for years.

    The marriage between Joseph Smith and Louisa Beaman likely remained unconsummated.

    No kids. Later lots of kids, once Joseph is dead. I follow the babies, not the rumors.

    Bennett and Sarah Pratt became fully intimate.

    Affdavit of J. B. Backenstos,” Affidavits and Certificates, Disproving the Statements and Affidavits Contained in John C. Bennett’s Letters. Nauvoo, Illinois, Aug. 31, 1842, “Personally appeared before me Ebenezer Robinson acting Justice of the Peace, in and for said county, J. B. Backenstos, who being duly sworn according to law, deposeth and saith, that some time during last winter, he [Backenstos] accused Doctor John C. Bennett, with having an illicit intercourse with Mrs. Orson Pratt, and some others, when said Bennett replied that she made a first rate go, and from personal observations I should have taken said Doctor Bennett and Mrs. Pratt as man and wife, had I not known to the contrary, and further this deponent saith not.” Available online at http://www.josephsmithspolygamy.com/JSImproperProposals/16ImproperProposalsAccusations/SarahPratt2.html, retrieved 27 March 2014.

    The date of 4 July 1841 was documented in 1844 articles in the Times and Seasons outing Francis Higbee as an enemy to righteousness, based on his frequenting of whores in Warsaw, being infected with the ____ (the pox according to a Nauvoo historian I talked with this past month). Frank Higbee’s confession and John Bennett’s confession were identified as occurring 4 July 1841.

    I believe it is during this discussion that Bennett confessed to his adultery with Sarah Pratt.

    I now think that Backenstos came to Joseph, accusing Bennett of sleeping with Sarah Pratt. I had originally formed a narrative where Bennett used the news report of the death of a Jesse Bennett’s wife to mislead Joseph, since I (like others who had studied Bennett) didn’t understand why George Miller’s report could have been “ignored,” as seem apparent from Lorenzo Wasson’s report of the loud confrontation between Joseph and Bennett in July 1841, which Ebenezer Robinson presumed had been prompted by the letter from Hyrum and William Law regarding Bennett’s past.

    However when one considers that the loud verbal rebuke is more likely associated with the July 1841 confession of adultery with Sarah Pratt, there is no need for the deception that would have somehow fooled Joseph into disbelieving George Miller’s report.

    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.

    I’ve lost track of where I came across the information that Orson Pratt invited Bennett to live in the Pratt home.

    This timeframe is right after Bennett’s reported suicide attempt. A contemporary account of Bennett’s possible suicide was contained in the Wasp on 27 July 1842, dating the suicide attempt as occurring exactly one year earlier.

    When I wrote this post, I thought Bennett hadn’t begun his seductions until August 1841, after his suicide attempt. However Catherine Fuller’s testimony indicates Bennett had been engaging in sex with her prior to mid-July 1841. Beyond that, there is a report (like almost everything related to 1840s Nauvoo polygamy, documented in detail in Brian Hales’ 1500 three-volume book) that Bennett had been paying inappropriate attention to a married woman in the spring of 1841, and that the woman finally arranged to have her husband present, to drive Bennett off. This doesn’t fit for Sarah Pratt or Catherine Fuller, nor does it fit for Elvira Cowles. It does fit for Mary Heron [Snider].

    At any rate, my framework at the time I published this post was that Bennett was driven to engage in illicit intercourse due to the factors I mentioned in the paragraph you cite. However additional research illuminates the likelihood that his illicit sexual activities began before August 1841.

    By the way, I don’t see you question my assertion that Bennett, as a doctor catering to female concerns, would have been engaged in causing uterine paroxysms. There’s a popular movie titled Hysteria on that, as well as a wealth of documentation written by people who know nothing about Mormons. Mormons, on the other hand, are typically under-informed of the history that gave rise tot he invention of the vibrator as a medical device.

    Bennett saw an opportunity to possess the one he desired.

    When I wrote this, I considered this a valid motive for the immense risk Bennett took in creating a huge network of men and women involved in illicit sex. I still consider this a viable motive. In particular, it explains Bennett’s possible seduction of Eliza R. Snow, if one considers the “vile wretch” she writes of in November 1842 to refer to Bennett and a personal relationship she had with the vile wretch.

    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.

    This one is larded with subjunctive. I don’t see the problem.

    As the investigation unfolded, Joseph came to suspect one woman of being the first to be seduced by the unknown band of evil-doers.

    This is based on my reading of the Joseph Ellis Johnson testimony, where “by Joseph” is shorthand for “I was informed about the frigging of my mother-in-law ‘by Joseph.'”

    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.

    Bennett is the one who talks about people having sex in the presence of others (specifically, he claimed that he was in the room and watched while Joseph had sex with some unnamed woman). He only wrote about that once, presumably because the public didn’t respond well to that level of accusation. After all, it indicates Bennett could have stopped the seduction, rather than (as he hoped) implying that he saw the sex and therefore knew it had really occurred.

    I no longer think Bennett’s interaction with Mary Heron (if it occurred, nod to the skeptics) was purely medical in nature. But medicine, in those days, involved a doctor massaging a woman’s privates until she achieved an orgasm. Referring you back to the vast array of documentation regarding the treatment of hysteria and inducing uterine paroxysms, medicine that has been part of the medical repertoire for thousands of years and has only been deprecated in the past century the practice was shown in early stag movies.

    I believe Bennett and his ring succeeded in gaining access to members of the Johnson family, including Delcena, Marinda, and Almera.

    In my framework, Joseph had to find out about Mary Heron in some fashion. However it’s sufficient that Bennett, in his confession, relate all the medical attentions he had been administering, medical attentions that in the case of Sarah Pratt appear to have escalated to full-up sexual intercourse, per Backenstos’ testimony.

    Marinda was a woman Joseph conceivably believed he should have married back in 1831. Actually, she assists in what I believe was the investigation by bringing Nancy Rigdon in for discussion. By her own reckoning, she didn’t become sealed to Joseph until 1843, long after these events.

    Delcena was sealed to Joseph, but this was likely in 1842 when she was a widow, not in 1838/9 as Brodie and V. Ettie Coray suggest. As a widow, she fits the profile of the women who did testify to having been seduced (widows of men who died in Missouri, foreign converts, the fatherless, the abandoned).

    Almera is interesting because she doesn’t marry Joseph until 1843. Almera’s sister was wife of Almon Babbitt, Stake President in Kirtland. A letter from Lester Brooks, counselor to Almon Babbitt, was published in November 1842 (Lester was mis-transcribed as Justin). Lester’s letter was a faith-promoting report on the activities of the Kirtland Stake, but his closing paragraph, asking to be remembered specifically to Elvira Cowles, is odd. Lester’s actions after Joseph’s death suggest that he had been part of the group of men involved in illicit intercourse (a common trait of those who align themselves with Strang after Joseph’s death).

    So while Joseph may have been having sex with Almera as inferred by Benjamin Johnson, it is also possible that Joseph was using this ruse to secure the loyalties of Almera as informant.

    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.

    Meh. I now think something else tipped Joseph off to the grossly lewd conduct going on in Nauvoo.

    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.

    I used the subjunctive. I’ve read in detail the High Council minutes, the minutes of the Relief Society, etc. People focus on Emma’s statements about women avoiding evil, no matter who teaches that non-virtuous behavior is acceptable. But we see Joseph teach these same things, which is what prompted Sarah Searcy to come forward and testify against Chauncy Higbee and his teachings of illicit intercourse.

    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.

    Once we get past February 1842, the matter of the angel and the sword is no longer a factor in the narratives the women provide regarding Joseph’s request that they become his plural wives. I don’t believe there is any contemporary documentation regarding the reasons for the many plural marriages dated to 1842. Those justifications written in later years are uncharacteristically vague. We don’t have any dates for Sarah Cleveland, Elizabeth Durfee, Sylvia Sessions, or the marriages of Mary Clift and Sarah Peak Noon which were presumed to have produced children. Given that we do have dates for the marriages up through Zina, this is not merely a matter of the early adopters of polygamy keeping things hidden.

    The Relief Society was clearly involved in investigating the sexual behavior of the women of Nauvoo, as evidenced by the call during the second RS meeting to investigate the accusations Clarissa Marvel had made, as well as the multiple subsequent similar investigations, the extreme measures put in place to ensure women joining the RS were pure, and the correlation between names of women who are not admitted to Relief Society and names of women suspected of illicit intercourse in the High Council Minutes. Emma Smith, as president of the Relief Society, would not have remained in the dark when her counselors and other mature women, like Elizabeth Durfee, were actively involved in interviewing fallen women.

    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.

    Nancy is one of those for whom we have no marriage date. She “marries” Heber C. Kimball after Joseph’s death, but when Heber arranges for her to marry another man late in her reproductive life, he makes the surprising admission that he never had sex with her. This is a man who has been married to a woman for decades, and he never has sex with her? Even after Nancy marries this other fellow and bears a child, the marriage ends and she remains in the home of her parents until her death in her 40s.

    Nancy, more than any other individual, reads like a victim of rape. Not that Joseph raped her, but that something traumatic occurred in her youth. Her brother, Benjamin F. Winchester, appears to be aligned with the group of individuals maligning Joseph through the years. Clarissa Marvel had been a servant in that home as well as the home of Agnes Coolbrith [Smith Smith], and Clarissa had been the source of rumors alleging that Joseph was unusually attentive to his brothers widow.

    Again, I used the word “propose.” I am not stating that all these factors prove Nancy was the first victim discovered, but I am persuaded that her history is consistent with having been a victim of sexual abuse.

    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.

    Clarissa was an orphan. She had lived with both Agnes Coolbrith [Smith Smith] and the Winchester family. She was the source of rumors about the attentions Joseph Smith was paying to Agnes Coolbrith. These are all documented facts.

    As I have laid out, I think Nancy was abused in some fashion. Since if she was abused in 1841, she would have only been 13, she is very atypical as a victim of the illicit intercourse campaign. Thus my conjecture that she happened upon something, say she walked into a room and found her brother, Benjamin, in media res with Clarissa Marvel. Or that there was a secret assignation planned with Clarissa and the seducer didn’t realize he had Nancy instead of Clarissa, taking the cries of fright as part of the sex game.

    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.

    What in the world inspired Joseph to marry Sylvia Lyons and her mother presumably in that order? I am proposing that an investigation was in process. These two women possessed skills or positions where useful information could be obtained.

    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.

    Speaking of Benjamin Winchester, he was one of the most prolific writers for the Times and Seasons. It is clear from his statements after 1841 that he is no friend to Joseph Smith. Most of those who ceased being friends of Joseph Smith appear to be involved in either the illicit sex ring and/or the conspiracy to murder Joseph.

    The matter of Willard shooting his gun is part of the historical record. That should not be in dispute.

    By April, Marinda was assisting Joseph’s investigation.

    Marinda is the one who invites Nancy Rigdon to speak with Joseph, much as Elizabeth Durfee attempted to get the Partridge girls to come forward with their knowledge regarding spiritual wives. There is a notation in a day book or journal with Marinda’s name associated with April 1842. However Marinda’s own affidavit indicates she wasn’t sealed to Joseph until 1843. I think other matters clearly establish there was an 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.

    This is a matter of textual analysis. In my framework, Joseph had simultaneously been attempting to find out if Nancy had been seduced (Frank Higbee was her boyfriend) and teach her about the New and Everlasting Covenant. After Nancy left the interview, I see Joseph’s letter attempting to explain why illicit intercourse would be wrong, but plural marriage would not be wrong. That is my assessment of the letter. Since most current scholars have ignored the evidence suggesting the band of men and women involved in illicit intercourse were being investigated, I’m not sure if anyone else has interpreted the letter as I have.

    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.

    I’ve already discussed this above. Delcena fits the profile of the kind of women who were victims of illicit intercourse, based on the women’s testimonies written out for the High Council.

    As for Delcena living with Louisa Beaman after her supposed sealing to Joseph Smith, that is a matter of public record.

    [The Nauvoo census was] a crucial step in the investigation.

    If you’ve studied genealogy as I have, you would realize how odd it is for a census to be conducted in a non-cardinal year (one that doesn’t end in 0 or 5) that gathers that much detailed information – far more information than the federal census that had been conducted only two years earlier.

    The High Council minutes reveal that this census was conducted in pursuit of teaching the members their duty.

    If you have ancestors who lived in Nauvoo circa 1842, this is a marvelous resource, given how much detail you get about who lived where and with whom.

    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.

    The fact that Joseph attempted to talk with Sarah Kimball about the New and Everlasting Covenant is a matter of historical record, delightfully included in Brian Hales’ 1500 page set on Joseph Smith’s Polygamy. I annotated my kindle version, so I usually only cite a chapter, rather than a page.

    I used subjunctive when asserting that this may have been associated with a desire to involve her in the investigation I think was clearly going on.

    The idea for a female benevolent society originated with Sarah Kimball. Yet she is not even included as a counselor in the organization, much less installed as the head of the group.

    Nancy and Martha looked on extended members of that ring as their suitors.

    Frank Higbee was Nancy’s boyfriend. That is a matter of public record. I forget offhand who Martha Brotherton was setting her cap after, but it is a matter of public record, whoever he was.

    I credit Brigham Young’s assertion that he interviewed Martha because he had received an evil report regarding her conduct. Even though her initial letter regarding the interview claimed she had been confined for hours (days?), the version published in the Sangamo Journal indicated she was only in the room for ten minutes.

    When I post at M*, I know how to include references. Here I have explained that these things are reasonable extrapolations of documented history, but have left much of the detailed references to that documented history out of this response. Most of my posts actually do contain references to that documented history.

    • runtu says:

      I read through this, and as I said, you have provided documentary evidence for a single assertion: Sarah Pratt’s relationship with John Bennett. As I noted, you take this at face value without any corroboration, but you dismiss corroborated evidence of Joseph Smith’s sexual relationships. That’s called a double-standard.

      As for the rest, it’s all based on hunches and suppositions. That is not how a historian works.

      • fanfic says:

        Im starting to think that maybe she doesnt understand what documentary evidence is.

        The fact that she consistently uses words and phrases like: “In my framework’ (??), “I am proposing” (often for no reason other than it supports your belief), “is apparently” (when its not apparent to anyone not invested in a particular conclusion), “That is my assessment of…” (so?), ” reasonable extrapolations of documented history” (to who?), “I had originally formed a narrative” (because it fit your pre-defined conclusion?), “I believe” (…without any documentary evidence it would appear), “I now think” (you see where I’m going here), etc.

        This is nothing but an exercise in wishful thinking in an effort to maintain beliefs that are not supported by the evidence available. You cant start with the conclusion and work backwards, it makes you look either foolish or desperate.

  5. Meg Stout says:

    “This is not how a historian works.”

    How do historians work, in your view? Is it gifted to them from some source of eternal and unquestionable truth?

    Of course historians must conjecture regarding what events occurred from the documentation (written, oral or genetic). It’s just that most other histories you are reading regarding Joseph have been ossified by years of repetition, to the point that most moderns no longer see the obvious signs of conjecture.

    • runtu says:

      Historians gather documentary evidence and then come up with a thesis from that evidence. You seem to believe that a historian comes up with a narrative and then gathers evidence to support that narrative. Otherwise, it’s difficult to make sense of your belief that people, myself included, are just following Fawn Brodie’s narrative.

      Sure, historians make conjectures, but it must have some relationship to the documentary evidence. That you can’t provide any documentary evidence for your conjectures is extremely problematic, to say the least.

    • Andrew says:

      This is a very telling question for you to ask.

      You have said that you have extensive professional experience in science and engineering. I have no idea what that experience has consisted of, whether a manager, an actual scientist/engineer, or what. If a real engineer doing real engineering work, those standards should already be familiar to you as they are essentially the same as the scientific method.

      Would you invest money in a new startup project to develop, say, a faster-than-light engine? Perhaps. But I’m sure you’d want to first see some evidence, right? What would be your standard for truth? Mathematical proofs? Peer-reviewed and published proofs? Documented experimentation? Proof of concept? Working prototypes? What if after asking for evidence, literally any evidence at all, you were handed a boxset DVD collection of Star Trek? What would be your reaction to that? And then what if after turning down this great investment opportunity you witnessed the same opportunity being peddled to your spouse, and kids, other family and friends? Might you feel motivated to publicly oppose this scheme?

      History is a well established field of scholarship with rigorous standards. There’s quite a lot of universities that give degrees in history, perhaps go lookup the courses and accompanying textbooks. Also, and I’ve asked this multiple times before and you never answered, why don’t you try and get your work published through peer review? You can find non-degreed historians that get work published in journals. Your work will be fairly reviewed, and you’re free to submit it to as many journals as you like. There are hundreds of them.

  6. Will Roberts says:

    >How do historians work, in your view? Is it gifted to them from some source of eternal and unquestionable truth?

    For one thing, Meg, they don’t waste their time with straw men and hyperbole, like this statement you make here. Nor do they make excessive use of “midrashic” speculations about what could possibly have happened under certain assumptions.

    If you want to see what a real historian’s work looks like with respect to Joseph Smith’s polygamy, I suggest Michael Marquardt’s work. He has one of the most conservative counts of Joseph Smith’s wives and backs it with the most meticulous documentation. He agrees that there was sexual polygyny but doesn’t concede sexual polyandry (nor does he exclude the possibility). You’d think an ex-Mormon would happily conclude that JS practiced sexual polyandry, but a true historian isn’t strongly influenced by his/her testimony or lack thereof, as you clearly are.

  7. Meg Stout says:

    Here is a subsequent attempt to answer the questions:

    I have published this in book form, with references, etc.:

    http://www.millennialstar.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/06/Reluctant-Polygamist-5th-edition.pdf

    1) 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.

    A) I stated that it appeared Elvira had promised Emma because Jonathan would tell his children and neighbors that Elvira had been Joseph’s wife and that Jonathan hadn’t become her husband until after Joseph died. Yet a wedding ceremony was performed uniting Jonathan and Elvira in December 1842, six months before Elvira reported she covenanted with Joseph Smith. The date when Elvira covenanted with Joseph Smith was mere days after Emma finally covenanted to unite with Joseph in the New and Everlasting Covenant. Elvira was the governess to Emma’s children and would remain an intimate of the Smith family from 1840 until her departure from Nauvoo in February 1846. Elvira is the only woman who covenanted with Joseph where we have any reason to think that the delay in entering into covenant with Joseph was possibly out of deference to Emma.

    2) 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.

    A) This is an extrapolation from what I wrote above. Given that Elvira appears to have deferred to Emma, it can’t be identified when she was first approached about entering into covenant with Joseph. She was a servant in the Smith home when Joseph’s father pronounced the September 1840 blessing on Joseph that appears to have triggered Joseph’s Nauvoo attempts to restore the principle of plural marriage.

    3) When Dr. Bennett began to court, I suggest Elvira Annie Cowles was very likely the woman he sought.

    A) I am open to others claiming this dubious honor on the part of their candidate. In the book I point out that Joseph saw fit to protect Elvira within a marriage to a widower at a time when other women who were pregnant were not provided a plausible cover husband. Elvira’s reproductive history combined with the stories Jonathan would tell his children and neighbors support the assertion that the 1842 ceremony uniting Elvira and Jonathan was a pretend marriage.

    4) 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.

    A) Joseph had received a letter accusing Bennett of various evils, likely no earlier than late January 1841 based on the mentions of both John Bennett and George Miller in D&C 124. Based on the accusing letter, Joseph had sent Bishop George Miller to investigate. George Miller wrote his report on the investigation into Bennett’s past on March 2, 1841. I am suggesting that Joseph had received George Miller’s letter by the end of March. Whatever the identity of the woman Bennett had hoped to marry, Joseph broke off the relationship. Since Bennett leaves the Smith household around this time, it suggests the young woman was associated with the Smith household. (Elvira was the governess in the Smith household.) All this is documented in the Times and Seasons issues of summer 1842 where Joseph explains why Bennett is not credible. I don’t know whether Joseph Smith hoped to fulfill the commandment by asking another individual to enter into plural marriage, though his reported admonition to the married missionaries planning to proselytize among the Lamanites in 1831 suggests Joseph wouldn’t have insisted on being the first to enter into plural marriage, had anyone else been willing to do so.

    5) The marriage between Joseph Smith and Louisa Beaman likely remained unconsummated.

    A) This is based on Louisa’s reproductive history. Of all of Joseph’s wives, she had the most time to conceive, had sex been occurring. Yet she remained childless until after she married Brigham Young after Joseph’s death. After marrying Brigham, Louisa produced five children in the five years between her marriage to Brigham Young and her death of cancer in 1850.

    6) Bennett and Sarah Pratt became fully intimate.

    A) This is based on the affidavit from Jacob Backenstos and the disclosures Joseph Smith made in the summer of 1842 in response to Bennett’s charge that Joseph had attempted to seduce Sarah Pratt.

    7) I believe it is during this discussion that Bennett confessed to his adultery with Sarah Pratt.

    A) I no longer thing Bennett confessed. I think Bennett was accused of adultery during the July 1842 events reported in 1844 by Hyrum Smith, Brigham Young and others.

    8 ) 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.

    A) The 1842 census shows that Orson Pratt and Dr. Bennett lived close to one another, possibly in the same house. By July 1841 Joseph Smith knew Dr. Bennett was an adulterer, based on the reports we read in the newspaper in 1844 that disclose the illicit behavior of Francis Higbee, which involve Dr. Bennett.

    9) Bennett saw an opportunity to possess the one he desired.

    Eliza Snow’s poetry and the recollection of Charles C. Rich suggests Eliza was seduced and impregnated by Dr. Bennett. As Eliza Snow herself couldn’t have been the young woman Bennett had hoped to marry, and as the young woman may have been given some information regarding why Dr. Bennett could not be her suitor, I have hypothesized that Dr. Bennett was attempting to develop a way of convincing a woman to be intimate with him, even though she would have known he was still married. This is consistent with the “Cloistered Saint” category Bennett describes in his History of the Saints.

    10) 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.

    A) This entire section uses subjunctive. It is speculation based on Louisa’s lack of children, combined with the fact that all the women Joseph covenants with from November 1841 through February 1842 were either married or (in the case of Agnes Coolbrith) recently widowed and still nursing an infant.

    11) As the investigation unfolded, Joseph came to suspect one woman of being the first to be seduced by the unknown band of evil-doers.

    A) I no longer thing Joseph’s initial awareness of the seductions involved Mary Heron. I think it involved Benjamin Winchester, who was excommunicated in January 1842.

    12) 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.

    A) I now think the frigging of Mary Heron was performed by Joseph Kelly, who was brought to Salt Lake City in the same express company that hauled Joseph Ellis Johnson in for Church trial. There were only four men in that company, with Joseph Ellis Johnson and Joseph Kelly accompanied by an apostle and the founder of Kanesville.

    13) I believe Bennett and his ring succeeded in gaining access to members of the Johnson family, including Delcena, Marinda, and Almera.

    A) I now think Delcena needed protection, Marinda had assisted in the investigation, and the 1843 covenant with Almera (who as I recall lived in Kirtland) was prompted by Joseph’s concern that the Kirtland Stake Presidency had become corrupted by the illicit intercourse heresy.

    14) 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.

    A) Again, I no longer thing the discovery of the frigging of Mary Heron was necessarily a driver of Joseph’s actions.

    15) 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.

    A) Emma and Joseph were both preaching against immorality in the initial months of 1842. This can be seen in the minutes of the Relief Society, along with the record that Joseph’s other sermons persuaded the women who confessed in May 1842 that Joseph did not teach that illicit intercourse was acceptable.

    16) 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.

    A) We see women often characterized as Joseph’s wives questioning young women. Three particular women involved in these activities are Marinda Johnson Hyde regarding her April 1842 interaction with Nancy Rigdon, the discussion Elizabeth Durfee had with the Partridge girls, asking them about spiritual wives, and the records that Sarah Cleveland was interviewing young women who had been spreading rumors regarding inappropriate sexual conduct.

    17) 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.

    A) We don’t know when Nancy Winchester covenanted with Joseph Smith. But the most significant event regarding Nancy’s family was the excommunication of her brother in January 1842. The subsequent revelation that the apostle’s were to take control of the Times and Seasons is significant as Benjamin Winchester had been very involved in the Times and Seasons prior to that time.

    18) 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.

    A) This was speculation based on the fact that Clarissa Marvel had worked both in the Winchester home and the home of Agnes Coolbrith. I think in the book I merely point out that Clarissa Marvel worked in both homes. I also point out that Nancy Winchester’s history is suggestive of having suffered some abuse.

    19) 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.

    A) Patty Sessions was a midwife. When I wrote this, I was not aware that Windsor Lyon’s excommunication may have been associated with illicit intercourse activities, or that Sylvia had been accused of an interaction with Stephen Markham. Even so, Windsor’s position as one who sold medications and the knowledge that Bennett and Gustavus Hills mentioned medicine for preventing pregnancy is interesting.

    20) 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.

    A) Benjamin Winchester, who had been actively involved with the Times and Seasons, was excommunicated in Jannuary 1842. Ebenezer Robinson, who had been living in the T&S building, is a source of later stories that suggest he was affiliated with the population of seducers. At any rate, this is suggested as an alternate interpretation to why Willard shot off the gun.

    21) By April, Marinda was assisting Joseph’s investigation.

    A) Marinda claimed she was not sealed to Joseph until May 1843. In April 1842 Marinda invites Nancy Rigdon to talk with Joseph. I suggest that this is “assisting Joseph’s investigation.”

    21) 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.

    A) If that letter wasn’t fraudulent, this is a possible way to interpret that letter.

    22) 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.

    A) I do think Delcena, as a widow, may have been someone the seducers might have tried to take in. However her status as the widow of a man Joseph had called to be an apostle suggests that Joseph’s concerns may have been looking out for women who had been married to his cherished associates. Benjamin Johnson’s report of his sister’s relationship with Joseph was that it was “tacitly admitted.” Tacit means not spoken, which suggests he inferred that there was something going on. Regardless, Delcena was part of an extended family that included Mary Heron, and I propose that the frigging of Mary Heron was performed by Joseph Kelly, not Joseph Smith. The academic paper to that effect is in draft.

    23) [The Nauvoo census was] a crucial step in the investigation.

    A) The 1842 census of Nauvoo was originated on January 18th by William Marks and Hyrum Smith’s comments to the High Council, suggesting the bishops should have “the Priests visit from house to house…” And that if the bishops were to refuse this request, that the High Council had authority to deal with them for such a refusal, “that the Council should call on the Presidents of the Lesser Priest-hood to attend the Council & receive instruction… That it was necessary for them to go from house to house, to his house, and to every house and see that every family done their duty…” See Minutes of the High Council of the Church of Jesus Christ of Nauvoo, Illinois, 1840-45, entry for January the 18th 1842. The Nauvoo City Council and High Council Minutes, John S. Dinger editor, Signature Books, Salt Lake City, 2011, pp. 399-402. Namely, the census was not merely an enumeration of the inhabitants of Nauvoo, but had a definitive ecclesiastical purpose. While I would be even more thrilled to find a copy that Emma and Joseph had annotated with the names of those also mentioned in the women’s testimonies before the High Council or the list of men excommunicated in 1842, it’s still an indication that the Church was concerned enough about something to require extraordinary effort on the part of bishops and the lesser priesthood.

    24) 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.

    A) This is documented by Brian Hales, Joseph Smith’s Polygamy, in Chapter 10. Sarah Kimball was sealed to Joseph on March 2, 1877 in the St. George temple. As she refused Joseph’s request in 1842, my hypothesis that he planned to involve her in the investigation is not provable. But it would be Emma Smith and her trusted associates who would be installed in the leadership of the women’s organization that had originally be proposed by Sarah Granger [Kimball].

    25) Nancy and Martha looked on extended members of that ring as their suitors.

    A) Nancy considered Francis (Frank) Higbee to be her suitor. This is not controversial. From Chapter 14, “Martha’s sisters, Mary and Elizabeth, and her brother-in-law, John McIlwrick, would testify Martha had lied and that she herself had behaved in a wanton manner.”

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