Monday, January 20, 2020

The Proxy Question

Joseph Smith, Jr.*
Inasmuch as 2020 marks the 215th anniversary of Joseph Smith's birth, the 200th anniversary of the First Vision, the 190th anniversary of the organization of the Church, and the 180th anniversary of John Cook Bennett's arrival in Nauvoo, it seems a good time to raise this polygamy question:
“How many alleged marriages or alleged sealings to Joseph were done by proxy before his death?”
This seems a relevant and crucial question in light of:
December 31st, 1883.
Mrs. Mary Ralph being duly sworn, deposes and says: I lived in Nauvoo, Illinois, close to the house of Joseph Smith, just across the road, sometime. ... and I believe he was a true prophet of God. I was well acquainted with the two Partridge girls and the two Walker girls and their two brothers William and Lorin Walker, they were orphans, and all lived in the family of Joseph Smith, but I never knew they were any of them his wives; but I saw Susy [Lucy?] Walker in 1847 and she had a young baby in her arms,[1] she told me she had been sealed to Joseph for eternity[2] and to Heber C. Kimball for time, and Bro. Heber was acting proxy for Bro. Joseph. Dianthy [Diantha] Farr, daughter of Aaron Farr, told me she was sealed in the same way and W[m]. Clayton was acting proxy for Bro. Joseph with her. The first I ever heard of the proxy and sealing business was in 1846. Bathsheba Smith, wife of Geo. A., told me of it then.
Sworn to before me this 31st day of December, 1883, W. J. Curtis, Notary Public in and for San Bernardino county, state of California.3 [Bold emphasis added.]
Of course the alleged Farr sealing could have been performed after Joseph's death as there seems no record of her as a plural wife, but could more proxy sealings like Lucy Walker's(?) have been possible during Joseph's life? This brings up the second crucial question: If there were such sealings, was Joseph aware of them? As far as we know he never wrote of them, and as to witnesses of alleged non-proxy marriages / sealings, how can we place full confidence in any of them with all the confusion of opinion, speculation, rumor-mongering, conflicting accounts, and motivated(?) memory (by both sides) that so plagued the early Church (even beyond the turn of the century)? And knowing our own memory failures, is it possible that years later someone could remember Joseph saying something promoting plural marriage when in fact it was something John Cook Bennett (or some other) had “shared” about what Joseph had allegedly said?

Perhaps the proxy question was explored by Joseph Smith III or others who interviewed some of the involved parties in later years, but so far in my readings, the above quote is the only reference I have come across about proxy sealings regarding Joseph and plural wives before his death. Has the proxy question been thoroughly researched?

I raise this for several reasons:
▪ What if admitted revisions of church records in 18454 and beyond, also encompassed marriage / sealing records? Here is a classic, relevant, revision example5:
From Joseph Smith Papers: Document Transcript ~ Book 3, 15 July 1843–29 February 1844
[Red text indicates those words that were deleted when this was subsequently recorded in History of the Church Vol. 6:46]
5 October 1843 • Thursday
Thursday October 5. morning rode out with Esqr Butterfild [Justin Butterfield]. to farm &c.—— P.M rode on prairie to shew the Some brethren some land.— eve at home walked up and down st. with scribe.— and gave inst[r]uction to try those who were preaching teaching or preaching the doctrin of plurality of wives. on this Law. Joseph forbids it. and the practice ther[e]of— No man shall have but one wife229 [6 lines blank] [p. [117]]
[Accessed at]6

From History of the Church, Vol 6
[Purple text indicates those words that were inserted when the above JS journal account was subsequently recorded in History of the Church 6:46]
Vol. 6: Page 46
Thursday, 5.—This morning I rode out with Esquire Butterfield to the farm.
Instructions Respecting Plurality of Wives.
In the afternoon, rode to the prairie to show some of the brethren some land. Evening, at home, and walked up and down the streets with my scribe. Gave instructions to try those persons who were preaching, teaching, or practicing the doctrine of plurality of wives: for, according to the law, I hold the keys of this power in the last days; for there is never but one on earth at a time on whom the power and its keys are conferred; and I have constantly said no man shall have but one wife at a time, unless the Lord directs otherwise.
[Accessed at]

NOTE: the interpolations here could easily be understood as the very reverse of what Joseph's journal records (as in the “turning of things upside down”??)
▪ Wouldn't proxy have been the perfect cover for secrecy from Emma and the uninitiated, perhaps even from Joseph if those engaging in “spiritual wifery” wanted to foster the notion that “elite” relationships were sanctioned by Joseph but which he could not acknowledge? Would it not lend heavy-weight justification for secret agendas and actions?
▪ Considering the character of John Cook Bennett,7 the proxy concept would have been a (small g) “god-send,” not to mention the possibility of other secret polygamists subsequently inventing and recording marriages / sealings to lay a foundation for pending doctrine. And likely, even before Bennett arrived in Nauvoo, he would have heard the rampant polygamy rumors.
▪ Since memory is so susceptible to distortion, persuasion, and conflation could “witnesses” have subsequently conflated proxy with “in-person” when interviewers did not specifically ask?
▪ With the passage of time, how easy might it be to remember rumor as fact?
▪ The nature of most men and women to self-justify or mis-remember behaviors or beliefs when criticized or under pressure is well known; as is the déjà vu on déjà vu ploy where offenders accuse whistle-blowers or truth-tellers of what they, themselves, are doing.
There seems to be so much evidence supporting both sides in the Joseph Smith polygamy debate that it's unlikely we shall ever know the full truth, this side of the veil, especially with all the conjectures (including this post), and theories, assumptions, falsehoods, and alleged facts (public and private) that have flooded this matter.

Perhaps, in all the confusion, God's witness8 of Joseph's honor is the one that matters.

1. 1st child of Lucy and Heber C. Kimball was Rachel Sylvia Kimball (28 January 1846 – 12 December 1847), so in 1847 she would have been just over one-year old.
2. The sealing was apparently May 1, 1843 per (though Lucy's account on that site differs from Mary Ralph's report above.
3. Proxy Sealings quote: from Chapter 14 “William Smith Provided Further Insights into the Origin of Polygamy” from the book Joseph Smith Fought Polygamy, Vol. 2 at (Bold emphasis added.)
I first referenced this in a footnote (#10) of a Déjà Vu ~ Times II post (Dec. 15, 2015) entitled “Could it Be?” where I also reflected on the probable psychopathy of John Cook Bennett at
Granted, the meaning of proxy here could be viewed / interpreted by some as similar to Levirate marriage: . Farr is listed as a plural wife of Clayton, (married Jan. 9, 1845) but the conjoined phrase “proxy and sealing business” could lend itself more to one person standing in for another during a sealing ceremony and not as a marriage partner. [Update Jan. 22, 2020: However, I could be wrong. Yesterday, I came across Whitney Horning's references to Levirate marriage. This understanding might reconcile the Mary Ralph account with other accounts, but I believe the proxy question is still a valid one to pursue with all the conflicting accounts and proxy possibilities, especially with no record of Farr as a plural wife to Joseph.]
4. What Is Our Real History? at
5. References are thanks to Whitney Horning from Joseph Smith Revealed: A Faithful Telling: Exploring an Alternate Polygamy Narrative (p. 217). Kindle Edition.
6. NOTICE: how the practice of leaving blank lines after JS journal entries leaves room for additions at some future date without the ability to know for certain when or who added the entry and for what purpose. Of course it can serve a legitimate purpose, but also opens the way for illegitimate use. The 229 pullout in the JS journal quote relies not on the numerous words of Joseph wherein he states his unrelenting opposition to “plurality of wives,” but relies on the oft-belated, alleged witness of others, some of whom were already practitioners or soon-to-be-practitioners in violation of extant scripture: (1835 D&C Section CI [101] Marriage: p. 251) at (Also see “one wife” at p. 192 and in the New Testament | 1 Timothy 3:2, 12; Titus 1:6; Doctrine and Covenants | Section 49:16.)
7. I first encountered the FairMormon expositions on polygamy in this new year, January 2020. I do not agree with some of the assumptions, interpretations, and conclusions, but their information is worth considering and attempting to prove otherwise where suspect or based on assumption. None of these FairMormon posts have a date that I could find as to when they were researched or posted, but they confirm some of my thoughts on Bennett's character. (draft chapters)ior_to_Nauvoo
Also see the Déjà Vu ~ Times II 2015 post about Bennett's probable psychopathy at
8. Doctrine and Covenants | Section 122:1-9 ~ Word of the Lord to Joseph Smith ~ March 1839
1 THE ends of the earth shall inquire after thy name, and fools shall have thee in derision, and hell shall rage against thee;
2 While the pure in heart, and the wise, and the noble, and the virtuous, shall seek counsel, and authority, and blessings constantly from under thy hand.
3 And thy people shall never be turned against thee by the testimony of traitors.
4 And although their influence shall cast thee into trouble, and into bars and walls, thou shalt be had in honor; and but for a small moment and thy voice shall be more terrible in the midst of thine enemies than the fierce lion, because of thy righteousness; and thy God shall stand by thee forever and ever.
5 If thou art called to pass through tribulation; if thou art in perils among false brethren; if thou art in perils among robbers; if thou art in perils by land or by sea;
6 If thou art accused with all manner of false accusations; if thine enemies fall upon thee; if they tear thee from the society of thy father and mother and brethren and sisters; and if with a drawn sword thine enemies tear thee from the bosom of thy wife, and of thine offspring, and thine elder son, although but six years of age, shall cling to thy garments, and shall say, My father, my father, why can't you stay with us? O, my father, what are the men going to do with you? and if then he shall be thrust from thee by the sword, and thou be dragged to prison, and thine enemies prowl around thee like wolves for the blood of the lamb;
7 And if thou shouldst be cast into the pit, or into the hands of murderers, and the sentence of death passed upon thee; if thou be cast into the deep; if the billowing surge conspire against thee; if fierce winds become thine enemy; if the heavens gather blackness, and all the elements combine to hedge up the way; and above all, if the very jaws of hell shall gape open the mouth wide after thee, know thou, my son, that all these things shall give thee experience, and shall be for thy good.
8 The Son of Man hath descended below them all. Art thou greater than he?
9 Therefore, hold on thy way, and the priesthood shall remain with thee; for their bounds are set, they cannot pass. Thy days are known, and thy years shall not be numbered less; therefore, fear not what man can do, for God shall be with you forever and ever. [Bold emphasis added.]
See also:
Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 3:6-15
Could It Also Be?
Ten-thousand [Malicious] Lies: (latter portion of the post.)

* Joseph Smith Painting source: By Unknown - Unknown, Public Domain,

Wednesday, January 1, 2020

“Subject Unto ... the Powers That Be”?

How, in this new year 2020, shall we deal with the Powers* that seem to have lost their way?1

How are we to reconcile Romans 13:1-72 and Article of Faith #123 with the overwhelming and growing witness of hubris, abuse, and corruption by those in positions of power (whether east or west, north or south; up or down)?​

Do we feel caught in a double bind4 between “honoring, obeying and sustaining” and this most revealing, insightful observation:
We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion5?
Perhaps these insights will help us find a discerning answer between blind obedience to or angry rejection of the Powers (or governing authorities as some have translated Romans 13:1):
Nothing is outside the redemptive care and transforming love of God. The Powers are not intrinsically evil; they are only fallen. What sinks can be made to rise again. We are freed, then, from the temptation to satanize the perpetrators of evil. We can love our nation or church or school, not blindly, but critically, recalling it to its own highest self-professed ideals and identities. We can challenge these institutions to live up to the vocation that is theirs by virtue of their sheer createdness.[6] We can oppose their actions while honoring their necessity. For example, a factory is polluting the air and water of our city, and we want it cleaned up. We can engage in that struggle knowing that its employees need jobs, and that their families also are at risk from the pollution, just as ours are. We can talk without hatred to the hard-nosed representatives of the plant, because we know that they, and we, and this factory, are encompassed by the love of God, and exist to serve the One in and through and for whom we were all created. We do not have to struggle to bring this plant into the orbit of God’s system. It is already there. We have only to remind its managers that it exists to serve values beyond itself (though this “reminding” may require a protracted boycott or strike).
Adam Smith himself acknowledged this when he wrote that the ultimate goal of a business is not to make a profit. Profit is just the means. The goal is the general welfare. It is part of the church’s task to remind corporations and businesses that profit is not the “bottom line,” that as “creatures” of God they have as their divine vocation the achievement of human benefaction (Eph. 3: 10). They do not exist for themselves. They were bought with a price (Col. 1: 20). They belong to the God who ordains sufficiency for all.7
So just as we all have a part in the body of Christ,8 we all have different skills, talents, and thus individual calls to action in challenging fallen powers:
There are no prepackaged answers that tell us how Christians should engage the Powers. One person may be called to try to reorganize the office where she works in a more humane fashion; another may have to walk out to protest sexual harassment. One may run for political office; another may despair of the electoral system and work to overthrow it. But all live in the paradox of “as if not,” as being in but not of the Domination System. “Come out of her, my people” (Rev. 18: 4) may be our marching orders, but so may be the call to assume secular office (as with Joseph and Daniel). Spiritual discernment takes the place of fixed rules. As Jacques Ellul argues, there really is no such thing as a “Christian ethic,” only the ethical inventiveness of Christians.9
Thus, shall we not honor what is honorable; obey what is ethical in the Lord;10 sustain what is sustainable; and thereafter challenge, expose, and oppose all fallen actions according to the discernment and call given to each of us? In the words of Walter Wink:
It is precisely because the Powers have been created in, through, and for the humanizing purposes of God in Christ that they must be honored, criticized, resisted, and redeemed. Let us then engage these Powers, not just to understand them, but to see them changed.11
* (whether political, economic, religious, secular, administrative, governmental, and so forth)

1. For example: “An institution may place its own good above the general welfare. A corporation may cut corners on costs by producing defective products that endanger lives. Union leadership may become more preoccupied with extending its personal advantages than fighting for better working conditions for the rank and file.” Wink, Walter. Collected Readings (p. 170). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
2. New Testament | Romans 13:1–7 ~ LET every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God's ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. (Bold emphasis added.)
Also, amongst others: New Testament | 1 Peter 2:13-18 ~ Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well. For so is the will of God, that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloke of maliciousness, but as the servants of God. Honour all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honour the king. Servants, be subject to your masters with all fear; not only to the good and gentle, but also to the froward.
3. Pearl of Great Price | Articles of Faith 1:12 ~ We believe in being subject to kings, presidents, rulers, and magistrates, in obeying, honoring, and sustaining the law.
4. Double Bind: A double bind is a dilemma in communication in which an individual (or group) receives two or more conflicting messages, with one negating the other. In some circumstances (particularly families and relationships) this might be emotionally distressing. This creates a situation in which a successful response to one message results in a failed response to the other (and vice versa), so that the person will automatically be wrong regardless of response. The double bind occurs when the person cannot confront the inherent dilemma, and therefore can neither resolve it nor opt out of the situation. //...// Double binds are often utilized as a form of control without open coercion—the use of confusion makes them both difficult to respond to as well as to resist.
5. Doctrine and Covenants | Section 121:39
6. New Testament | Colossians 1:16-17 ~ For by him [the firstborn of every creature] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things consist.
7. Wink, Walter; Collected Readings (p. 171). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition. (Bold emphasis added.)
8. New Testament | 1 Corinthians 12:14-26 ~ For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? If the whole body were an eye, where were the hearing? If the whole were hearing, where were the smelling? But now hath God set the members every one of them in the body, as it hath pleased him. And if they were all one member, where were the body? But now are they many members, yet but one body. And the eye cannot say unto the hand, I have no need of thee: nor again the head to the feet, I have no need of you. Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: And those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another. And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.
Doctrine and Covenants | Section 84:109–110 ~ Therefore, let every man stand in his own office, and labor in his own calling; and let not the head say unto the feet it hath no need of the feet; for without the feet how shall the body be able to stand? Also the body hath need of every member, that all may be edified together, that the system may be kept perfect.
9. Walter Wink. Collected Readings (p. 187). Fortress Press. Kindle Edition.
10. Doctrine and Covenants | Section 98:4–18 ~ And now, verily I say unto you concerning the laws of the land, it is my will that my people should observe to do all things whatsoever I command them. And that law of the land which is constitutional, supporting that principle of freedom in maintaining rights and privileges, belongs to all mankind, and is justifiable before me. Therefore, I, the Lord, justify you, and your brethren of my church, in befriending that law which is the constitutional law of the land; And as pertaining to law of man, whatsoever is more or less than this, cometh of evil. I, the Lord God, make you free, therefore ye are free indeed; and the law also maketh you free. Nevertheless, when the wicked rule the people mourn. Wherefore, honest men and wise men should be sought for diligently, and good men and wise men ye should observe to uphold; otherwise whatsoever is less than these cometh of evil. And I give unto you a commandment, that ye shall forsake all evil and cleave unto all good, that ye shall live by every word which proceedeth forth out of the mouth of God. For he will give unto the faithful line upon line, precept upon precept; and I will try you and prove you herewith. And whoso layeth down his life in my cause, for my name's sake, shall find it again, even life eternal. Therefore, be not afraid of your enemies, for I have decreed in my heart, saith the Lord, that I will prove you in all things, whether you will abide in my covenant, even unto death, that you may be found worthy. For if ye will not abide in my covenant ye are not worthy of me. Therefore, renounce war and proclaim peace, and seek diligently to turn the hearts of the children to their fathers, and the hearts of the fathers to the children; And again, the hearts of the Jews unto the prophets, and the prophets unto the Jews; lest I come and smite the whole earth with a curse, and all flesh be consumed before me. Let not your hearts be troubled; for in my Father's house are many mansions, and I have prepared a place for you; and where my Father and I am, there ye shall be also. (Bold emphasis added.)
11. Walter Wink. Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination (Kindle Locations 215-217). Kindle Edition. (Bold emphasis added.)