Joseph Smith’s revelations taught him that people may receive eternal life through obedience to covenants with God and that family relationships can continue after this life. Marriage between one man and one woman is the Lord’s standing law of marriage, but Joseph Smith told friends that an angel commanded him to practice plural marriage in the 1830s, and plural marriage was practiced by some Latter-day Saints into the 1900s. The resources listed here discuss Joseph Smith’s teachings about heavenly beings and exaltation, Joseph’s legal right to perform weddings, and a deep study of later polygamy in St. George, Utah.
“Doctrine and Covenants 129:8 and the Reality of Satan’s Physicality,” Alonzo L. Gaskill, Religious Educator 8, no. 1
Joseph Smith, Heber C. Kimball, Wilford Woodruff, Newel Knight, Sidney Rigdon, Benjamin Brown, and Harvey Whitlock all experienced physical attacks from Satan and his minions, described in this article. Given the information in D&C 129:8 that Satan and his followers have no bodies, how could they attack humans? This article suggests that spirit bodies do have matter and can interact with mortals. For Joseph Smith, one of the purposes of the temple endowment is to give people the keys of discerning spirits.
“‘A Subject That Can Bear Investigation’: Anguish, Faith, and Joseph Smith’s Youngest Plural Wife,” J. Spencer Fluhman, No Weapon Shall Prosper: New Light on Sensitive Issues
A clear understanding of the earliest plural marriages eludes historians since records are scant or nonexistent. Helen Mar Kimball, only fourteen when sealed to Joseph Smith, decades later wrote about it, and her words offer a view of Nauvoo plural marriage and her own complicated spiritual and emotional path. This article describes some of the Saints’ thinking about how families could be sealed together and the goal of creating a network of family in heaven.
“Joseph Smith’s Performance of Marriages in Ohio,” M. Scott Bradshaw, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, no. 4
In March 1835, Presiding Judge Matthew Birchard refused a request from Sidney Rigdon for a license to perform marriages in Geauga County. While Judge Birchard’s refusal of Rigdon’s motion may have dissuaded LDS elders from making similar requests in Geauga County, at least one elder was not deterred from performing marriages—even without a license. County marriage records show that on November 24, 1835, Joseph Smith solemnized the marriage of Newel Knight and Lydia Goldthwaite Bailey. Joseph Smith’s action invokes the memory of earlier “dissenting” ministers who also struggled against prejudices and whose efforts helped bring about greater religious freedom in the United States.
“Newel and Lydia Bailey Knight’s Kirtland Love Story and Historic Wedding,” William G. Hartley, BYU Studies, Vol. 39, no. 4
In October 1835, Newel Knight and Lydia Bailey, two spouseless adults still in the prime of life, found themselves living in the same boardinghouse and eating at the same dining table. As lodgers with Hyrum and Jerusha Smith in Kirtland, Ohio, they had good reason to notice each other. Lydia’s husband had deserted her more than three years earlier, and Newel’s wife had died a year before. Romance developed quickly, and in a couple of months, Lydia accepted Newel’s marriage proposal. Their pending wedding led Joseph Smith to declare his right to perform marriages. Being a leader in a church that had published its beliefs concerning marriage, he could legally do so, and he also believed he had authority from God by virtue of the priesthood he held. Nevertheless, the wedding has given rise in recent times to historical legal controversy.
“Historical Context and Background of Doctrine and Covenants Sections,” by Steven C. Harper and Casey Paul Griffiths, Doctrine and Covenants Central
These short essays provide essential information to understanding where these sections came from.
Gospel Topics Essays on Plural Marriage, at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
“Plural Marriage in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints”
“Plural Marriage in Kirtland and Nauvoo”
“The Manifesto and the End of Plural Marriage”
Polygamy in St. George, Utah, 1861-1880, BYU Studies 51, no. 4
These article discuss the practice of polygamy, including why St. George had such a high number of polygamous households, the practical limits of polygamy, and a discussion of how to study rates of polygamy.
“Probing the High Prevalence of Polygyny in St. George, 1861-1880: An Introduction,” Davis Bitton, Val Lambson, Lowell C. “Ben” Bennion, Kathryn M. Daynes
“Demographic Limits of Nineteenth-Century Mormon Polygyny,” Davis Bitton, Val Lambson
“Mapping the Extent of Plural Marriage in St. George, 1861-1880,” Lowell C. “Ben” Bennion
“Striving to Live the Principle in Utah’s First Temple City: A Snapshot of Polygamy in St. George, Utah, in June 1880,” Kathryn M. Daynes
“Plural Marriage in St. George: A Summary and an Invitation,” Davis Bitton, Val Lambson, Lowell C. “Ben” Bennion, Kathryn M. Daynes