On 17 August 1835, and presented what was probably a collection of unbound gatherings or signatures of the forthcoming Doctrine and Covenants to a general assembly of the church in , Ohio. Representatives from different priesthood offices expressed approval of the work and testified of their satisfaction with it. During the proceedings, and Cowdery presented two additional documents to be included in the volume: the statement featured here, which the minutes refer to as “Rules for Marriage among the saints”; and a declaration on “laws in general. & church government.” The assembly accepted both to be “attached to the book,” and they were included as sections 101 and 102 in the Doctrine and Covenants, which was available by September 1835.
Although the text of the statement on marriage suggests that it was written partly because the church had been charged with fornication and polygamy, the statement may also have been produced in an effort to claim the right for members of the church’s clergy to solemnize marriages. Earlier that year, the Court of Common Pleas had denied a license to perform marriages because he was judged not a “regularly ordained minister of the gospel, within the meaning” of ’s 1824 statute on marriage. That statute allowed “the several religious societies agreeably to the rules and regulations of their respective churches, to join” men and women “together as husband and wife.” This statement on marriage may have been the church’s formal declaration of just such “rules and regulations,” published so that JS and other church leaders could perform marriages under Ohio law.
The authorship of the statement is unclear, but it has generally been attributed to . In 1867, stated that Cowdery had requested that a proclamation disavowing plural marriage be included in the Doctrine and Covenants, but JS had refused to pen one, stating he would “have nothing to do with it.” According to one observer, in 1869, Young explained further that “Cowdry wrote it, and incisted on its being incerted in the Book of D.&C. contrary to the thrice expressed wish and refusal of the Prophet Jos. Smith.” JS’s only specific objection that Young noted was to the mention of polygamy. There are no records specifying whether JS disapproved of the rest of the statement. There is also no evidence indicating whether JS contributed to the statement’s creation. He signed a preface included at the beginning of the 1835 Doctrine and Covenants that stated that the book presented “our belief . . . the faith and principles of this society as a body.” But since the preface was written six months before the book was published and likely before the statement on marriage was composed, it is possible that the statement on marriage was included by Cowdery and printed without JS’s permission or even against his wishes. JS was absent when the statement was read to and approved by the congregation in August 1835. Since it is unclear whether JS was involved in producing the statement or whether he approved it, it is included as an appendix of this volume rather than as a featured text.
An Act Regulating Marriages [6 Jan. 1824], Statutes of Ohio, vol. 2, p. 1407, sec. 2.
The Statutes of Ohio and of the Northwestern Territory, Adopted or Enacted from 1788 to 1833 Inclusive: Together with the Ordinance of 1787; the Constitutions of Ohio and of the United States, and Various Public Instruments and Acts of Congress: Illustrated by a Preliminary Sketch of the History of Ohio; Numerous References and Notes, and Copious Indexes. 3 vols. Edited by Salmon P. Chase. Cincinnati: Corey and Fairbank, 1833–1835.
The earliest recorded marriage performed by JS occurred in November 1835 when he was invited to “solemnize the matrimonial ceremony” of Newel Knight and Lydia Goldthwaite. (JS, Journal, 24 Nov. 1835; for more information on Ohio marriage laws at this time, see Bradshaw, “Joseph Smith’s Performance of Marriages in Ohio,” 23–69.)
It is possible that William W. Phelps was involved in drafting the document since he and Cowdery were both involved in printing the Doctrine and Covenants. In preceding months, Phelps had expressed considerable excitement and interest in what he called “a new idea” of eternal marriage. (See Van Orden, “W. W. Phelps,” 45–62; and William W. Phelps, Kirtland, OH, to Sally Waterman Phelps, Liberty, MO, 26 May 1835, William W. Phelps, Papers, BYU.)
Van Orden, Bruce A. “W. W. Phelps: His Ohio Contributions, 1835–36.” In Regional Studies in Latter-Day Saint Church History: Ohio, edited by Milton V. Backman Jr., 45–62. Provo, UT: Department of Church History and Doctrine, Brigham Young University, 1990.
Joseph F. Smith recorded Young’s words in his diary, explaining that “Prest. Young spoke 12 minutes in relation to Sec. 109 B. of Doctrine and Covenants.” Smith later stated that Cowdery knew of the doctrine of plural marriage but took “liberties without license” in publishing the statement in the Doctrine and Covenants “without authority.” (Joseph F. Smith, Diary, 9 Oct. 1869; Joseph F. Smith, in Journal of Discourses, 7 July 1878, 20:29; see also Provo, UT, Central Stake, General Minutes, 4 Mar. 1883, vol. 12, pp. 271–275.)
Smith, Joseph F. Diary, Sept. 1869–Apr. 1870. Joseph F. Smith, Papers, 1854–1918. CHL. MS 1325, box 2, fd. 5.
Journal of Discourses. 26 vols. Liverpool: F. D. Richards, 1855–1886.
Provo, UT, Central Stake. General Minutes, 1852–1977. CHL. LR 9629 11.
JS History / Smith, Joseph, et al. History, 1838–1856. Vols. A-1–F-1 (original), A-2–E-2 (fair copy). Historian’s Office, History of the Church, 1839–ca. 1882. CHL. CR 100 102, boxes 1–7. The history for the period after 5 Aug. 1838 was composed after the death of Joseph Smith.
1 According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this , should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding , high priest, , , or , not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: “You both mutually agree to be each other’s companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives.” And when they have answered “Yes,” he shall pronounce them “husband and wife” in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: “may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”
3 The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his .
4 All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband. All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust. We believe that all persons who exercise control over their fellow [p. 251]
In the first recorded marriage performed by JS, he did not follow this text verbatim but conveyed similar ideas. His journal indicates that the text of the ceremony was his own. He stated, “You covenant to be each others companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband & wife in every respect.” (JS, Journal, 24 Nov. 1835.)
It is unclear who made such charges or in what venue they were made. Some evidence suggests that the doctrine of plural marriage was known to JS in 1831, prompted by his reading and questioning of the practice by Old Testament prophets during his detailed work in Genesis as part of his Bible revision. He may have begun sharing the concept with a select number of individuals in 1832.a Later accounts indicate that JS married Fanny Alger as a plural wife before or shortly after this 1835 statement was published. Following that marriage, JS likely did not marry other plural wives until 1841. The documentary record of the relationship between JS and Alger is fragmentary and contradictory.b Other reminiscences insist that Cowdery also practiced plural marriage at this time. These records claim that when Cowdery heard of the doctrine, he engaged in the practice without authorization from JS.c The statement’s explicit disavowal of polygamy led to its removal from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876 when it was replaced by a July 1843 revelation explaining the concept of plural marriage.d
(a“Celestial Marriage,” Deseret News, 2 June 1886, 310; Bachman, “Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage,” 24–28. bOliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery, 21 Jan. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 80–83; JS, Journal, 12 Apr. 1838; Minute Book 2, 12 Apr. 1838; William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Joseph Smith III, [Plano, IL], July 1872, typescript, Letters and Documents Copied from Originals in the Office of the Church Historian, Reorganized Church, CHL; Hancock, “Autobiography of Levi Ward Hancock,” 50, 61–65. cWoodruff, Journal, 26 Aug. 1857; Brigham Young, Discourse, 8 Sept. 1867, in George D. Watt, Discourse Shorthand Notes, 8 Sept. 1867, Pitman Shorthand Transcriptions, CHL; Walker, Journal, 26 July 1872; “History of the Church,” 122; see also Hales, “Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation,” 112–190; and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 25–42; for a refutation of Cowdery’s involvement in polygamy, see Hales, “Accusations of Adultery or Polygamy Against Oliver Cowdery,” 279–293. dRevelation, 12 July 1843, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 132].)
Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.
Bachman, Danel W. “New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage.” Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 19–32.
Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.
McLellin, William E. Letter, Independence, MO, to Joseph Smith III, [Plano, IL], July 1872. Letters and Documents Copied from Originals in the Office of the Church Historian, Reorganized Church, no date. Typescript. CHL. MS 9090. Original at CCLA.
Hancock, Mosiah Lyman. "Autobiography of Levi Ward Hancock," ca. 1896. CHL. MS 570.
Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.
Watt, George D. Papers, ca. 1846–1865. CHL.
Walker, Charles L. Journal, May 1866–Jan. 1873. Charles L. Walker, Papers, 1854–1899. CHL.
“History of the Church.” Juvenile Instructor 6, no. 16 (5 Aug. 1871): 122–123.
Hales, Brian C. “Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation.” Journal of Mormon History 35, no. 4 (Fall 2009): 112–190.
Compton, Todd. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001.
Hales, Brian C. “‘Guilty of Such Folly?’: Accusations of Adultery or Polygamy against Oliver Cowdery.” In Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, edited by Alexander L. Baugh, 279–293. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009.
Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL. MS 4583.
No extant documents show specific accusations against JS, the church, or its missionaries concerning baptizing women against their husbands’ wishes or influencing baptized wives to leave their husbands to join the Saints, but in the months following August 1835, the topic was raised again in two separate letters to the elders of the church. A hint at the types of circumstances to which JS responded in these letters can be found in the 1832–1833 missionary diary of Samuel Smith. He recorded the contentious exchanges caused when a woman joined the church and planned to flee her abusive husband and migrate to Zion. The husband confronted Smith, declaring that he and his companion Orson Hyde “had been persuadeing his woman to leave him” and that they were preaching that “people must Repent & go to Zion to be delivered from those Judgments that was coming upon the wicked.” (Samuel Smith, Diary, 22 July 1832; see also JS, “To the elders of the church of Latter Day Saints,”LDS Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1835, 1:179–182; and JS, “To the elders of the church of Latter Day Saints,”LDS Messenger and Advocate, Nov. 1835, 2:209–212.)
Smith, Samuel. Diary, Feb. 1832–May 1833. CHL. MS 4213.
Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.