Did Joseph Smith Pressure Women To Marry Him In Polygamy?

“Some of the marriages to these women included promises by Joseph of eternal life to the girls and their families, threats of loss of salvation, and threats that he (Joseph) was going to be slain by an angel with a drawn sword if the girls didn’t marry him.” (CES Letter)

Everybody Promised Blessings – Joseph Smith never promised blessings if they married only him. D&C 132 promised exaltation to those who faithfully entered into this new and everlasting covenant. Why wouldn’t Joseph Smith talk about blessings of exaltation when he introduced the doctrine of polygamy?

Witness accounts reveal Joseph Smith laid out the principle and then let the women decide what to do. Lucy Walker said Joseph Smith told her, “this principle was again to be restored for the benefit of the human family, that it would prove an everlasting blessing to my father’s house.” Joseph Smith never promised blessings if she were sealed to only him. He promised blessings for her family and mankind in general if they practiced this general principle at that point in time.

No Threats – Joseph Smith never threatened anyone. The only thing I could find that could possibly be construed as a threat was what he told reportedly told Lucy Walker: “If you reject this message, the gate will be closed forever against you.” If we read this in context, it is clear that he meant she would not get a second chance to marry him, which turned out to be true, as Joseph Smith was martyred the next year. But Joseph Smith never said she had to marry him, just that she needed to accept this new principle.

Accounts of what Joseph Smith told the women make it clear that he never threatened or withheld any kind of reward if they married someone besides him.

Angel With A Drawn Sword – There are dozens of accounts from people who Joseph Smith told about the angel threatening him with a sword if he did not institutionalize polygamy. Joseph Smith told everyone he could. There are zero accounts of Joseph Smith telling this story to the women who he wanted to be sealed to him. The only account we have relating to the women is a third-hand account 50 years later in the Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement, attributed to Zina Jacobs:

“[Joseph] sent word to me by my brother, saying, ‘Tell Zina I put it off and put it off till an angel with a drawn sword stood by me and told me if I did not establish that principle upon the earth, I would lost my position and my life.'”

This quote is untrustworthy, as it is third-hand, originated 50 years later, and I have not been able to find the original Salt Lake Herald Church and Farm Supplement source. But even if the quote is legitimate, does he ever say he needs to marry her? No, just that he needs to “establish the principle.” It regards polygamy in general, nothing specific to Zina. The angel with a drawn sword appears to be a story Joseph Smith told lots of people to help explain why he was introducing polygamy. He did not use it as a coercion tactic.

Imagine you live in a Puritan early 19th century society and you are tasked by God with introducing polygamy. Mainstream Christian competitors already wanted to kill Joseph and this was just more fuel for the fire. What would you do? Not talk about promised blessings because some anti-Mormon 200 years later would claim you were coercing the women? Tell the people that it’s just an option if they want to do it? Then no one would do it and they would ostracize those who did do it. Joseph Smith simply told the people that there was greater exaltation available and they could have it if they obeyed this general principle. No threats. No coercion.

CES Letter Logical Fallacies

Falsehoods Joseph Smith did not promise exaltation to the women’s families if their daughters were sealed to him, but rather if they practiced the principle of celestial marriage themselves.

Joseph Smith never threatened or coerced women when asking them to be sealed to him.

Argument From
The “new and everlasting covenant” of sealing was different from civil marriage, as it was for the afterlife and did not involve earthly relations by itself. Only those sealed “for time and eternity” could have involved sexual relationships. There is no evidence of sexual relationships between Joseph Smith and any of his polygamous wives. It is manipulative to apply the blanket term “marriage” to all of Joseph Smith’s sealings.
Strawman Argument For their vast research into “the real origins of polygamy and how Joseph Smith really practiced it,” CES Letter totally misunderstands what happened. It is easy to tell salacious tales of sordid affairs, but CES Letter provides zero evidence that the sealing to those women was the same thing as marriage.
Repetition After detailed attacks on Joseph Smith’s character, CES Letter repeats the sordid claims as part of a condense list. This solidifies their characterization of him as a disgusting creep.

CES Letter repeats their allegations in this argument four times.

Why do so many “pro-equality” activists, progressives who think people should be free to marry whoever they love, condemn Mormons for their history with polygamy? Shouldn’t polygamy be on their list of marriages that deserve equality? Well yes, it should, and this is why anti-Mormons spin polygamy as something that coerces and manipulates women into subjugation. Lately, this narrative has become evens easier as there really are crazy cults that actually do victimize young girls and force people to marry. Interestingly, we only seem to hear about splinter groups in Utah, however.

This is why this argument’s narrative about women being victimized is so important. Opponents in the media have trumpeted this narrative since the beginning. In the 19th century, newspapers were putting out story after story about how women in Utah were “slaves.” It led to the federal government for the first time registering all marriages, controlling the definition of marriage, and jailing Mormons who did not fit that definition. Still today, Mormons are persecuted as some kind of oppressive patriarchy that victimized women. This narrative gives opponents justification for attacking Mormons while claiming to be “pro-equality.”

The key component is the claim that men are victimizing women. This frame of ‘predator versus victim’ leads us to a Marxist ideology. Marxism is all about protecting victims from the predators. Marxists think the biggest miracle about mankind is that we evolved to the top of the food chain without ever becoming predators of other animals. Economically, Marxists protect working classes from a predator class.

Marxism is all about protecting the vulnerable from those seeking unequal advantage–and all about keeping people weak in order to keep them reliant on a benevolent dictator for safety.

A major part of Marxism is the deconstruction of masculinity.

They seek to pick positive masculine traits that propagate the ideology, such as the gusto to fight for the cause, and eliminate “toxic masculine” traits such as the desire to marry and have children in a traditional family. They think traditional families are evil because men contribute labor to the economy while women are “subjugated” as mothers and do not perform labor. The ideal for Marxists is a state where men and women are completely equal working bees and children are grown and raised by the benevolent dictator state. Nobody is preying on anybody.

Marl Marx used the exact same argument that CES Letter is using here. In the book Dominion and Wealth: A Critical Analysis of Karl Marx’s Theory of Commercial Law by D.C. Kline, we read the story of Christians manipulating women into marriage using threats:

“On the way to the church, he informed her that if she did not marry him immediately, he would blow his brains out. They went through the form of a marriage ceremony, which she later attempted to invalidate on the ground that she acted under duress. The court rejected her claim, feeling that the facts did not reveal the existence of duress.”

CES Letter wants us to believe Mormons were manipulating and victimizing women in the same way as this Marxist narrative. The narrative that women are coerced into marriage because of Christianity comes straight from Karl Marx, and it is nothing but an attack on the traditional family.

Big LieCES Letter uses the same big lie tactic that they used against the Book of Mormon and the Book of Abraham. They start of with the big lie that marriage for time and for eternity were the same. This compounds and leads to other lies to attack Joseph Smith’s character, such as this ridiculous lie that Joseph Smith was marrying foster daughters. CES Letter can get away with this stunning lie about “foster daughters” because they already got away with the lie that his sealings were simply “marriages.” One lie leads to another.

This lie is easier for the reader to accept after all those earlier arguments that attached the same kind of narrative about the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. If Joseph Smith made up all these books of scripture haphazardly, isn’t it reasonable that he made up revelations about marriage in order to steal underage girls?

CES Letter can get away with this Big Lie because it is the consensus among so many people that Joseph Smith had carnal relations with girls, and because it takes so long to actually investigate the evidence. People are too lazy to actually look through all the historical documents. Even mainstream church apologists are beaten down by all of the accusations and have give way to the big lie. They are too tired defending against it. They let CESLetter get away with the big lie that Jospeh Smith “married” underage girls, as we understand the definition of marriage today which involves sexual relations. Even if you don’t believe the allegations, just this association frames Joseph Smith as a creep.

For the Book of Abraham, the big lie was that the book was “translated” from a recovered fragment of papyrus that we now know is the Book of Breathing. They repeat it over and over. With polygamy, the big lie likewise will be used by CES Letter to make all sorts of implications to attack Joseph Smith’s character.

Contradiction StrategyCES Letter gives a few bits of incorrect leading evidence; the reader connects to dots in their mind; and CES Letter pushes it to a sweeping generalization. If Joseph Smith was a prophet, why did he manipulate women into having carnal relations with him? People are much more likely to believe CES Letter‘s string of illogic because they connected the dots out on their own, subconsciously. They are also more likely to believe the evidences for that deduction, which in this case are falsehoods.

We could see the intellectual tricks and sophistry CES Letter used to portray Joseph Smith as a fraud, in their arguments about the Book of Mormon and Book of Abraham. Well, even if that were all true and he were a fraud, so what? Aren’t Mormons still nice people who make the world a better place? The powerful thing with these polygamy arguments is that CES Letter tells you why Mormonism is still evil: it victimizes girls. It matters because Joseph Smith was a creep who preyed on women. This is easy rhetoric for them to push, as the internet is filled with all kinds of false rumors about Mormon polygamy. It is easy to just repeat the claim over and over, not give any evidence, and make the issue personal through manipulative repetition.