Some members of the Mormon church, formally known as The Church of Jesus Christ Latter-day Saints, are reeling. With the release of 12 essays about the church and its founder, Joseph Smith, some Mormons are even questioning their faith. According to a Monday, Nov. 10 report by The New York Times, Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives.
Until the essays were released, most Mormons believed that Joseph Smith was only married to Emma Smith, his first wife. They were completely unaware that he was married to between 30 and 40 other women. Those numbers are being called “careful estimates.” One of those women wasn’t even a woman. Helen Mar Kimball, who was the daughter of close friends to Joseph Smith, was only 14 years old when she married the “practically perfect prophet.”
It is believed that Smith “probably did not” have sexual relationships with all of his wives. Some could have been “eternity only sealings.” That means that the relationship was “on reserve” for the afterlife. It is possible that the marriage between Helen Mar Kimball, the 14-year-old wife, and Joseph Smith had such a marriage.
Polygamy was described as “an excruciating ordeal for Emma,” Joseph Smith’s first wife. Despite this, she accepted four of her husband’s wives into her home. It is very likely that she never knew how many wives her husband truly had. This probably holds true for both Smith’s wives in this life and those wives who were on hold for his afterlife.
Seeing that at least some of Joseph Smith’s wives were “on reserve” for the afterlife, it is unknown if he married all those women to increase the size of the Mormon church. It is not a stretch of the imagination to see Smith as a precursor to the “Quiverfull movement.” This a belief held by some conservative evangelical Protestant couples that they should have as many children as possible. The reason for this is to populate the Earth with “Christian soldiers” to spread the Gospel. The Duggar family, made famous by the hit reality show, “19 Kids and Counting,” on TLC is believed to be a apart of this movement by many familiar with their family and the family’s beliefs.
Polygamy ended in 1890 for the Mormon church. This was due to pressure from the American government. Despite that, some members and even some leaders continued to practice plural marriages. This continues today. One such example of polygamy is the Brown family. They were made famous by the hit reality television show “Sister Wives” which aired on TLC. Kody Brown is married to four women and, according to his own statements, was open to marrying more women.
Smith and his 30 to 40 wives was a shock to many practicing Mormons. It has been said that the news of Joseph Smith’s many wives has “rock[ed] their lives.” Some have even left the Mormon church. That would include both leaders and members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.