I’ve always been rather fascinated with the “fruits” of Joseph Smith’s polygamy.
Orson Pratt, who was an early defender of plural marriage, often explained that its purpose was to participate in the blessings of Abraham and to more effectively populate worlds:
“Therefore, a Father… could increase his kingdoms with his own children, in a hundred fold ratio above that of another who had only secured to himself one wife. As yet, we have only spoken of the hundred fold ratio as applied to his own children; but now let us endeavor to form some faint idea of the multiplied increase of worlds peopled by his grandchildren, over which he, of course, would hold authority and dominion as the Grand Patriarch of the endless generations of his posterity. …the one-hundredth generation would people more worlds than could be expressed by raising one million to the ninety-ninth power.” (The Seer, March 1853, p. 39)
Brigham Young concurred with Pratt when he stated:
“This is the reason why the doctrine of plurality of wives was revealed, that the noble spirits which are waiting for tabernacles might be brought forth.” (Discourses of Brigham Young, p. 197.)
The Book of Mormon is supportive of these conclusions. Although Jacob teaches that many of David and Solomon’s marriages were not sanctioned
Behold, David and Solomon truly had many wives and concubines, which thing was abominable before me, saith the Lord…there shall not any man among you have save it be one wife; and concubines he shall have none; For I, the Lord God, delight in the chastity of women. And whoredoms are an abomination before me; thus saith the Lord of Hosts. (Jac. 2:24-29)
he also outlines the conditions under which he would approve polygamy:
30 For if I will, saith the Lord of Hosts, raise up seed unto me, I will command my people; otherwise they shall hearken unto these things. (Jacob 2:30)
If the purpose of polygamy was to populate this world and the next, why did Joseph Smith have so little success in raising up posterity from his polygamous wives?
Over the years, there have been claims that some of Joseph’s plural wives had children by him. A thorough search of all children who could possibly have been sired by Joseph has been made. Each of the children of Joseph’s polygamous wives between the time they contracted marriage and Joseph’s death in 1844 were considered. Nine people have been identified by historians as being possible children of Joseph Smith:
- George Algernon Lightner (son of Mary Rollins Lightner who was also married to Adam Lightner), and Orson Washington Hyde (son of Marinda Johnson Hyde who was also married to Orson Hyde). These two children died as infants.
- Moroni Llewellyn Pratt (son of Mary Ann Frost Pratt, who was also married to Parley P. Pratt), Zebulon Jacobs (son of Zina Diantha Huntington Jacobs Smith, who was also married to Henry Bailey Jacobs) and Orrison Smith (son of Fanny Alger). These three alleged male descendants were ruled out by DNA testing in 2005.
- Mosiah Hancock (son of Clarissa Reed Hancock, who was married to Levi Hancock), Oliver Buell (son of Prescindia Huntington Buell, who was also married to Norman Buell). DNA testing also ruled out these two males in 2007.
- That leaves John Reed Hancock (son of Clarissa Reed Hancock, above) and Josephine Rosetta Lyon (daughter of Sylvia Sessions Lyon, who was also married to Windsor Lyon.)
I have included the Hancock sons despite the fact that Todd Compton and most reliable Joseph Smith specialists do not recognize Clarissa Hancock as being one of Joseph Smith’s wives. Josephine Lyon cannot be tested with current technology because Y-DNA genetic testing for non-male lines is not possible. Researchers are currently using autosomal DNA testing on descendants of Josephine Lyon and should be able to make a conclusion within the next two years.
Ugo Perego, director of operations at the Sorenson Molecular Genealogy Foundation, where these DNA tests are ongoing, has stated: “I’m not saying the list I have is definitive or complete at all. But out of those we have data for, there is no evidence from DNA at this point that Joseph Smith had any children from women other than Emma Smith.”
One must ask the question: If the purpose of plural marriage was to propagate additional posterity, why did it seem to have failed in the case of Joseph Smith, the first modern Prophet to restore the practice?