LDS founder Joseph Smith’s many wives

After officially acknowledging earlier this month that founder Joseph Smith had multiple wives, some of them as young as 14, officials at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are now facing two important questions.

Who were these women, and what are their stories?

Smith was already married when he began to set his sights on other women.

His first wife, Emma, had wed the handsome, charismatic religious leader in 1827 with the firm belief that it would be a traditional relationship.

Emma suffered multiple miscarriages during her life and lost several children after they were born.

When her husband began to practice polygamy, she may have felt like something of a failure, according to Jana Riess, a Mormon blogger for Religion News Service.

“Imagine what it would have felt like to be her, and see her husband apparently abandoning her to be with others who might be able to bear him children,” said Riess.

Church officials could not provide The Huffington Post with a comprehensive list of Smith’s wives.

But historians have been able to learn quite a lot about the women by piecing together information from diaries and family histories.

The church’s public affairs department directed HuffPost to Todd Compton, a Mormon researcher whose 1997 book In Sacred Loneliness compiles a list of 33 well-documented wives of Joseph Smith — although the total number is likely as high as 40.

Emma was allegedly disturbed by the doctrine on polygamy, which Joseph claims he received through divine revelation.

Her stance put the prophet in the position of having to choose between God’s will and his wife’s.

As Joseph would later tell it, it wasn’t until an angel appeared to him, brandishing a sword and threatening destruction, that the prophet finally agreed to obey the commandment fully. Continue reading


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