Polygamy Sources: Joseph Bates Noble

Here is some of the testimony of Joseph Bates Noble (1810-1900), who married Joseph Smith to Louisa Beaman, who was Noble’s sister-in-law. Some background:

I’ve included some testimony that isn’t entirely relevant just because it gives you a good idea of his temperament. It may seem like I’m over-using ellipses, but I am skipping a lot of repeated questions and discussions of objections

I should note that almost every question is followed by an objection in the original, so I skipped them. They all read something like this:

Counsel for the plaintiff objects to the question asked the witness on the ground that it is incompetent, irrelevant and immaterial, and not relevant to any of the issues of this case and pleading.

Needless to say, I didn’t feel like including that over and over, and I figured readers wouldn’t want to wade through it, either.

29 Q-I asked you to state to the reporter Mr. Noble, what you know if anything about the doctrine of plural marriage, sometimes or commonly called “polygamy” being taught or practiced in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, of which you were and are a member, at Nauvoo, during the life of of Joseph Smith, the prophet?
A-Yes sir, it was taught by Joseph Smith.

31 Q-[State] where the doctrine of plural marriage was taught at Nauvoo before the death of Joseph Smith?
A-What is that?
34 Q-Never mind his objection, but just answer the question as soon as he gets through with his Objection,-give him time to make his Objection and then go ahead and answer the question.
A-Well it was at my house.
35 Q-Who taught the doctrine of plural marriage at your house?
A-Joseph Smith the prophet did.
38 Q-I asked you to state to the reporter what you know in regard to Joseph’s teaching or practicing the doctrine of plural marriage during his lifetimes there in Nauvoo,-what you know about that further than what you have stated?
A-Well he taught it in my house and practiced it also.
39 Q-Was any one present at the time that Joseph Smith taught the principle of plural marriage that you refer to?
A-Yes sir.
40 Q-Who was present at the time he taught that principle?
A-My wife’s sister.
41 Q-Who was that?
A-Louisa Beaman.
42 Q-Was there any others? A-Yes sir, there was some of my own family there, but they were young at that time.
43 Q-Were you ever present when any one was married under this plural marriage doctrine, as taught by Joseph Smith?
A-Yes sir.
45 Q-Mr. Hall asked you to state the circumstances under which you were present and saw any one married under the operations of this plural marriage doctrine or principle, as I understand it?
A-It bothers me to call us these things. I feel so feeble. Well I was present one time and performed the marriage ceremony giving him my wife’s sister.
46 Q-Who did you marry?
A-Louisa Beaman to the prophet.
48 Q-You married Louisa Beaman to the prophet Joseph Smith?
A-Yes sir.
49 Q-About what year was this?
A-In ’41 or close to it. Now that is my best recollection.
50 Q-When did the prophet Joseph Smith first teach you that doctrine?
A-He taught me that doctrine in ’40. It was in ’40 or about that time,-that is my best recollection.
51 Q-Where were you living when you were first taught that doctrine?
A-I was living in Montrose in Lee County, Iowa, right across the river opposite Nauvoo.
52 Q-Do you know whether Joseph Smith ever lived any with Louisa Beaman as his wife?
A-Yes sir.
53 Q-You may state how you know it?
A-I know it for I saw him in bed with her.

115 Q-You don’t know much this morning only about polygamy and Joseph Smith’s connection with it, and you know all about that?
A-Well that forces it upon me more particularly.
116 Q-Is it because you have been connected with that crime,-with the commission of that crime yourself?
A-Yes sir, I expect so.
117 Q-You know all about polygamy.
A-I expect I do.
118 Q-And your conscience is gnawing you?
A-Yes sir, It has a terrible gnawing fit on it this morning.
119 Q-You feel very bad over it, don’t you?
A-Over what?
120 Q-Is it not a fact that you feel very bad over your sins in connection with polygamy?
A-Not much, thank you.

341 Q-Answer the question,-it was according to the law of doctrine and covenants that any minister could marry you and perform the marriage ceremony?
A-Yes sir, of course it was.
342 Q-You could get any one to do that?
A-Yes sir, you could call on whom you liked.
343 Q-That was the doctrine of the church, wasn’t it?
A-No sir.
344 Q-It was not?
A-No sir.
345 Q-Well what was it?
A-There was no doctrine about it,-it was simply the practice. We were not after doctrine at such a time as that.
346 Q-You were after the women weren’t you? A-Yes sir, we were after women and we got them too, and that is more than some men can do now a days. I was after a wife and I know I got her.
347 Q-You got your first wife in 1838?
A-Yes sir.
348 Q-You commenced hunting a wife in 1838 now when did you quit hunting them?
A-Quit?
349 Q-Yes sir,-that is what I asked you.
A-I don’t know as I have quit yet.

380 Q-Well when did you go to Nauvoo to live?
A-Well it is my best recollection that we went there about 1841.
381 Q-That is when you first heard the doctrine of polygamy talked,-when you went over to Nauvoo to live in 1841 was the time when you first heard that doctrine talked was it not?
A-Well I don’t know about that.
384 Q-Well it was some time in ’41 wasn’t it that you first heard it talked of, when you went over to Nauvoo to live?
A-Yes sir, I heard of it then I guess, but I had heard of it before that time, and afterwards too I guess.
384 [sic] Q-Well where and when did you hear of it before?
A-I heard of it in ’40 I guess.
386 Q-In 1840 you say you heard of it?
A-Yes sir.
387 Q-Where did you hear of it then?
A-Let me see where I was then,-I was over there in Montrose I guess.
392 Q-Now did you hear anything about the church denouncing such a practice at any time between 1840 and 1844,-at any time between these dates?
A-I don’t recollect much about that.
393 Q-Well do you recollect anything about it?
A-Not the date,-of course there were rumors and talks,-I could not begin to say or tell all that I heard for there was so much talk going on there.
394 Q-Don’t you know that the church as a church did denounce it between 1840 and 1844?
395 Q-Answer the question,-don’t you know that too?
A-How is that? Know what?
396 Q-I asked if you did not know that the church did denounce the practice of polygamy or the plural or secret wife system between 1840 and 1844? Answer the question? Are you going to answer the question?
A-Be patient. I am trying to call up these things. It was in ’44 that the prophet died. That was the time of the death of the prophet I believe. My head feels so bad and I feel bad all over too.
397 Q-It feel worse than it did when you was being examined by Hall, don’t it?
A-Well I don’t know.
398 Q-Don’t you know that the church did denounce it and publish it, and by resolution it was put in the book of doctrine and covenants. Don’t you know that?
A-The dates is what bothers me you see. I can’t remember dates at all any more.
399 Q-Well you know it was denounced by the church at some time, don’t you?
400 Q-The church did denounce the system of polygamy or its practice did it not at some time, at that too before the death of Joseph Smith?
A-The trouble with me is that I can’t date it.

[Attorney tries very hard to get Noble to admit that monogamy, as outlined in the Doctrine and Covenants, was the law of the church during Joseph Smith’s life.]

415 Q-Then you say you did not know this was the law of the church at the time that Joseph Smith died, when you were a bishop, and a high priest and elder, and sat there to teach the people what the law of the church was?
A-I was not much of a scholar, and I guess I did not go to the book.
416 Q-Then you did not teach the law of the church out of the book?
A-I guess not.
417 Q-Why not?
A-I guess I had enough without.
418 Q-You had enough to teach without going to the book for your law,-you knew enough without that?
A-Yes sir, I suppose so.
419 Q-Well what did you teach,-this law or some other law?
A-I taught every man to mind his own business devilish close.

424 Q-Did you teach publicly or privately there at Nauvoo that a man could have more wives than one?
A-I did not.
425 Q-You did not teach that either publicly or privately?
A-No sir, I did not teach anything of the kind.
426 Q-Why not?
A-Because it was not taught publicly,-it was a private matter.
427 Q-Then you did not teach it?
A-No sir, I guess not,-not much I did not teach it. I don’t think I did but I can’t remember. My head hurts me when I try to think of these things that I can’t remember.
428 Q-When I ask you these questions it makes your head hurt?
A-Sir?
429 Q-It did not make your head hurt a little bit when Hall asked you these questions?
A-It did some.
430 Q-It made it hurt some, but not as bad as when I ask you the same question?
A-You ask so many foolish nonsensical questions that it would make anybody’s head hurt to answer them I think.

433 Q-Well then answer the question as to whether you taught that a man could have more wives than one?
A-No sir, I don’t think I did teach that.
434 Q-Well if that was the doctrine and practice of the church, why didn’t you teach it?
A-Well I guess it wasn’t safe for a man to do so, and you had to be careful what you taught.

[Attorney gets exasperated when trying to get Noble to say whether Joseph Smith taught plural marriage during his lifetime.]

444 Q-Well I am not asking you a thing on earth about the date,-I put at any time before his death,-at any time from 1830 up to 1844. Pick your own time any where within these limits?
A-Yes sir, the principle was taught.
445 Q-Taught to the church was it?
A-It was taught privately.

448 Q-Did he teach it publicly or privately?
A-Privately I think it was.
449 Q-Did he teach it to the church?
A-To individuals in the church. There is no doubt of that. I guess I had better put it that way.

456 Q-You know that he did not teach it to the church as a church either publicly or privately, don’t you?  Don’t you? Don’t you know that?
A-I know that he taught it to individuals in the church.
[Noble complains that Kelley “holler[s] so loud that it makes my head hurt.” Kelley is exasperated and asks again whether Joseph Smith taught the principle of plural marriage.]
467 … A-He taught things to the church, that unless the key was turned on their minds you could not know a darned thing about what he was driving at.
468 Q-Well I move to strike out all that answer except the word “darned.”
A-What a comfortable place this is for a sick fellow.

489 Q-And let the record show that the party that uses such language is an elder in this church out here in Utah?
A-Yes sir, let the record show that. Oh I don’t wrap a Pharisaical coat around me and say I am not like that other fellow, for I swear frequently when I am driven to it. I have sworn or affirmed before this frequently when I was on the stand, for I am rather a plain dealer, or used to be. I don’t like to do it though, for it is not right you know, but we are all weak, and I am especially so perhaps.

628 Q-At whose house [was Joseph Smith married to Louisa Beaman]?
A-At mine.

634 Q-Well [Louisa Beaman] was present at that time wasn’t she? She was present at the time?
A-Well she would be very likely to be present, I think.

648 Q-Was that sealing for time and eternity?
A-For time and eternity.

669 Q-Did you not claim that Joseph was higher than the law?
A-Joseph?
670 Q-Yes sir?
A-Well we received the law through him.
671 Q-And that he was higher than the law? You thought that didn’t you?
A-Well what if I did?
672 Q-Well answer the question,-did you not claim and think that he was higher than the law?
A-Well he was the law.
673 Q-He was the law himself, according to your way of thinking?
A-Well he gave us the law.
674 Q-You believe that didn’t you,-that he was the law?
A-Well he was the one that restored the priesthood to earth.
675 Q-Well was he the law of the church?
A-He gave the law to the church.
676 Q-Well was he the law of the church?
A-He had to do with it any way.
677 Q-Well he made the law didn’t he?
A-He received it from the Lord all right enough.
678 Q-Q-Now you are positive that it was before ’43 that you performed this marriage ceremony marrying Joseph Smith and Louisa Beaman? You are sure of that are you not?
A-Yes sir.

680 Q-You performed the ceremony and returned across the river the same night did you not?
A-Yes sir.
681 Q-What made you say the other day that Joseph Smith and that woman you sealed to him slept together that night?
A-Because they did sleep together.
682 Q-If you were not there that night how do you know they slept together?
A-Well they slept together I know. If it was not that night it was two or three nights after that.
683 Q-Where did they sleep together?
A-Right straight across the river at my house they slept together.

686 Q-You said the other day that the night you married them they slept together, and now today you say after you married them you went across the river and did not stay there that night? Now I want you to answer the plain square question. Did he sleep with her the first night after the ceremony was performed?
A-He did.
687 Q-Now you say that he did sleep with her?
A-I do.
688 Q-How do you know he did?
A-Well I was there.
689 Q-And you saw them go to bed together?
A-I gave him counsel.
690 Q-What counsel did you give him?
A-I said “blow out the lights and get into bed, and you will be safer there,” and he took my advice or counsel. (witness laughs heartily.)
693 Q-You went across the river did you not,-is that not what you said?
A-Yes sir, but I told him that.

695 Q-Well when was it you told him that?
A-It was in the night time.
700 Q-Well did you stay there until the lights were blown out?
A-No sir I did not stay until they blowed out the lights then.
701 Q-Well you did not see him get into bed with her that time?
A-No sir.
702 Q-And so you don’t know whether he followed your advice from your own knowledge?
A-No sir, I did not see him, but he told me he did.
703 Q-But you don’t know it of your own knowledge from seeing him do it?
A-No sir, I think not.

705 Q-Was Emma Smith there?
A-No sir.
706 Q-Did she know anything about it?
A-No sir, I think not.
726 Q-Well do you not know, or did you ever know of any women who were taken as plural wives, before they became members of the church?
A-Well I expect as a rule they took a soaking beforehand.

789 Q-There was no license, was there, issued by the clerk of the court, or by any body else for the marriage?
A-For the marriage, did you say?
790 Q-Yes sir,-to marry Joseph Smith to Louisa Beaman,-for sealing her to him?
A-No sir.
791 Q-Why not?
A-Well we did not have to use them in marriages of that kind,-that was a marriage performed in the church, and it was a secret marriage as I told you many a time.
792 [Q-]Was that marriage performed under the law or the color of law?
A-Yes sir.
793 [Q-]Now where was your law for that marriage or sealing,-where did you get it?
A-I got it all right,-right from the prophet himself. That is where I got it.
794 Q-He just told you it was necessary for him to have Louisa Beaman?
A-Yes sir.
795 Q-And asked you to seal her to him?
A-Yes sir.
796 Q-And you did it?
A-Yes sir.
797 Q-You took his word for it?
A-Yes sir.
798 Q-And you did not hesitate about it?
A-No sir, I took his word for it quicker than scat.
799 Q-And you sealed him to her?
A-I sealed her to him and I did a good job too.
800 Q-There was no revelation for it?
A-I don’t know anything about the revelations.
801 Q-You don’t know anything about whether there was any revelation for it,-any revelation authorizing it or not,-you just took his word for it?
A-Yes sir. He said it was all right and I believed him.
802 Q-Did you perform it in accordance with this revelation published in the book of Doctrine and Covenants,-published by your church here in Utah?
A-No sir.
803 Q-I mean this polygamous revelation?
A-No sir.
804 Q-This was not in existence at that time was it?
A-I don’t know whether it was or not.
805 Q-Well it is dated here in 1843,-was it in existence at the time that you married Louisa Beaman to Joseph Smith?
A-I don’t know anything about it, and I don’t care a darned thing about it either.
806 Q-That is another of the things that you don’t care a darned thing about too?
A-Yes sir, you can have it that way if you want it that way.
807 Q-Well is that not just what you said?
A-I expect it is,-you are enough to badger the life out of a fellow, and I kind of lose my temper sometimes, but I will try and bear with you.
808 Q-Don’t that revelation say that the first wife of a man must give her consent to it before he can marry a plural wife,-must take the plural wife by the hand and give her to her husband as a wife before the ceremony can be celebrated?
809 Q-Is that not what the commandment says?
A-I don’t know anything about what it says.
810 Q-You don’t know as a matter of fact, whether there was any revelation at the time that you married Louisa Beaman to Joseph Smith, or not?
A-No sir, I don’t know anything about it, only I had it kind of stuck in me that there was.
811 Q-The Lord stuck it into you?
A-Yes sir, I expect so and he has stuck it in me that I must fight my way through with you,-I see that plainly enough. Oh you are not the only cross I have had to bear in my time, and I guess I will out-last you, so you go ahead, for I am tough,-tougher than I look, perhaps.

816 Q-Who did you consult after you left the witness stand here the other day?
A-Nobody.
817 Q-Did you not consult with Woodruff?
A-No sir, I did not consult with him or anybody else, nor has anybody insulted me only you.

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One Response to Polygamy Sources: Joseph Bates Noble

  1. grindael says:

    Isn’t polygamy grand?

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