Joseph C. Kingsbury copy of D&C 132

The Provenance of D&C 132

The provenance of LDS section 132 is sometimes criticized by those who believe Joseph Smith was a monogamist. Available manuscript data provides a credible historical background for the document that is today published in the LDS Doctrine and Covenants. William Clayton recorded in his journal that he wrote the original revelation on July 12, 1843 as it was dictated to him by the Prophet:

This A.M, I wrote a Revelation consisting of 10 pages on the order of the priesthood, showing the designs in Moses, Abraham, David and Solomon having many wives and concubines &c. After it was wrote Presidents Joseph and Hyrum presented it and read it to E[mma] who said she did not believe a word of it and appeared very rebellious.[1]

Then one or two days later, Newell K. Whitney requested permission to have a copy made.[2] Joseph C. Kingsbury described the copying process in 1886:

Bishop Newel K. Whitney handed me the Revelation… the day [after] it was written or the day following and stating what it was asked me to make a copy of it. I did so, and then read my copy of it to Bishop Whitney, who compared it with the original to which he held in his hand while I read to him. When I had finished reading, Bishop Whitney pronounced the copy correct and Hyrum Smith came into the room at the time to fetch the original. Bishop Whitney handed it to him. I will also state that this copy, as also the original are identically the same as published in the present edition [1876] of the Book of Doctrine and Covenants.[3]

Sometime thereafter, Willard Richards made a copy of the Kingsbury manuscript.

The Richards and Kingsbury copies can be viewed here.

The existence of the Kingsbury copy was fortunate because the original Clayton document was destroyed within weeks of its creation.[4]

In the months following its being committed to paper, multiple Nauvooans learned about the revelation and its contents. William Law reported in the Nauvoo Expositor published June 7, 1844:

I hereby certify that Hyrum Smith did, (in his office,) read to me a certain written document, which he said was a revelation from God, he said that he was with Joseph when it was received. He afterwards gave me the document to read, and I took it to my house, and read it, and showed it to my wife, and returned it next day. the revelation (so called) authorized certain men to have more wives than one at a time, in this world and in the world to come.[5]

Jane Law signed a similar affidavit.[6] Others left records referring to the revelation with many saying they either handled it or heard it read to them. Mercy Rachel Thompson stated that she was privileged to keep the written revelation "some four or five days. Something like that."[7] Lucy Walker testified that she saw the revelation "at the Nauvoo Mansion" where she was living.[8]

Several documents affirm that the revelation was read to the Nauvoo High Council. One member, David Fullmer described what happened: "Dunbar Wilson made inquiry in relation to the subject of plurality of wives, as there were rumors about respecting it, and he was satisfied there was something in those rumors, and he wanted to know what it was. Upon which Hyrum Smith stepped across the road to his residence, and soon returned bringing with him a copy of the revelation on celestial marriage given to Joseph Smith July 12, 1843, and read the same to the High Council, and bore testimony to its truth."[9] Seven other Nauvoo High Councilors and stake leaders, James Allred, Thomas Grover, William Huntington, Aaron Johnson, Leonard Soby, and Austin Cowles, left similar records.[10]

Another witness of the revelation's existence is Cyrus Wheelock who recounted how Joseph Smith "had that revelation read to a group of three or four or five together" by his clerk.[11] He added: "there was a few of us in the woods, getting out of the way and we were talking and I heard about it."[12] Others who recorded similar testimony were John Hawley, Franklin D. Richards, Ebenezer Robinson, James Leithead, Charles Smith, Mary Ann West, John Taylor, Jane Snyder Richards, and Charles Lambert.[13]

Apostle George A. Smith reported in 1871: "In 1843 the law on celestial marriage was written, but not published, and was known only to perhaps one or two hundred persons."[14] The quantity of testimonies from both believers and unbelievers regarding a revelation dictated by Joseph Smith in the summer of 1843 is important evidence that a document dealing with polygamy then existed.

Some critics contend that at some point the Kingsbury copy was changed, ostensibly by Brigham Young or under his direction. Evidence for this theory is thin. Historian Lyndon Cook described what happened next to the Kingsbury manuscript: "Newel K. Whitney preserved the Kingsbury copy of the revelation. In March of 1847, at Winter Quarters, Brigham Young asked Bishop Whitney for the Kingsbury copy, which transcript was published in 1852."[15] In 1885, Helen Mar Kimball explained what occurred at Winter Quarters:

Sunday, the 14th [March 1847], my husband [Horace Whitney] penned in his journal: "By father's request I went and copied an important document, which took me the greater part of the day and into the night."[16] The revelation on plural marriage was the "document" referred to, the bishop having the only one in existence, which he afterwards gave to President Young, retaining a copy.[17]

March 14, 1847, entry in Horace Whitney's journal.

If emendations were made by Brigham Young, they would have occurred after he took possession of the document in March 1847.

However, the widespread knowledge of the revelation would have made successfully altering it more difficult. Success would have required a widespread intrigue involving many individuals. Kingsbury would have needed to collaborate by penning an altered (or new) revelation as directed by Brigham Young because Section 132 is a transcription of his manuscript and shows no sign of editing. (See video above of Kingsbury manuscript.)

While many Nauvoo polygamists may not have remembered details of the revelation, many other members were still alive who were familiar enough with its message to detect alterations.

Contemporaneous evidence corroborates some details in the Kingsbury copy. The testimonies of William and Jane Law as published in the Nauvoo Expositor, that the original revelation "authorized certain men to have more wives than one at a time, in this world and in the world to come,"[18] dovetail with Law's later recollections.

When asked in 1887, "What do you remember about Emma's relations to the revelation on celestial marriage?" Law replied: "Well, I told you that she used to complain to me about Joseph's escapades whenever she met me on the street. She spoke repeatedly about that pretended revelation. She said once: 'The revelation says I must submit or be destroyed. Well, I guess I have to submit.'"[19]

Proponents of the altered revelation theory must also confront the question of why Brigham would have included verses 51-66 that deal with personal issues confronting the Prophet and his wife over plural marriage.

The sometimes confusing narrative in those verses documents Emma's awareness and a struggle between her and Joseph that fits their known marital tensions present in the summer of 1843.

It seems Brigham Young had no need to frame Joseph Smith as the initiator of the practice or the revelation. Multiple voices, early and late, friendly and unfriendly, verify Joseph as the originator.

 


[1] George D. Smith, ed. An Intimate Chronicle: The Journals of William Clayton. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 1995, 110.

[2] Willard Richards made a separate private copy of the Kingsbury copy sometime prior to November of 1843. (Robert J. Woodford, "The Historical Development of the Doctrine and Covenants." Ph.D. diss., Brigham Young University, 1974, 1460, table 110. Available at MormonPolygamyDocument.org link JS0829. To view both copies, see (accessed December 18, 2016) https://dcms.lds.org/delivery/DeliveryManagerServlet?dps_pid=IE537526.) Whether Brigham Young was aware of this copy is unknown.

[3] Joseph C. Kingsbury, Affidavit dated May 22, 1886, MS 3423, CHL. See also Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 2:18; available at https://archive.org/details/AffidavitsOnCelestialMarriage. Andrew Jenson, "Plural Marriage," Historical Record 6 (July 1887): 226. Available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org link JS1000. See also Joseph Kingsbury, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent's testimony (part 3), page 178, question 19. Available at https://archive.org/details/TempleLotCaseTranscript.

[4] See Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, 13:193, October 7, 1869; available at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/JournalOfDiscourses3/id/9608/rec/13. Andrew Jenson, "Plural Marriage," Historical Record 6 (July 1887): 226; available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org link JS1000. Brigham Young, August 9, 1874, Journal of Discourses, 17:159; available at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/JournalOfDiscourses3/id/9612/rec/17. Comments of Joseph F. Smith, at Quarterly conference held March 3-4, 1883, USHS #64904, page 271; CD manuscripts series 11, reel 2; available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org link JS0797.  Charles A. Shook, The True Origin of Mormon Polygamy. Cincinnati: The Standard Publishing Co., 1914, 153; available at https://archive.org/details/trueoriginofmorm00shoo.  William E. McLellan, M.D. to President Joseph Smith [III], Independence, Jackson Co. Mo. July 1872, original in Community of Christ CHL, copy at CHL, MS 9090; transcript available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org link JS0363.

[5] William Law, "Affidavit." Nauvoo Expositor 1, no. 1 (July 7, 1844): 2. Available at http://signaturebookslibrary.org/nauvoo-expositor/.

[6] Jane Law, "Affidavit." Nauvoo Expositor 1, no. 1 (July 7, 1844): 2. Available at http://signaturebookslibrary.org/nauvoo-expositor/.

[7] Mercy Rachel Thompson, deposition, Temple Lot Transcript, Respondent's Testimony, Part 3, page 250, questions 244. Available at https://archive.org/details/TempleLotCaseTranscript.

[8] Lucy Walker, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent's testimony (part 3), page 452, questions 66-68. Available at https://archive.org/details/TempleLotCaseTranscript.

[9] Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Book, 1:27. Available at https://archive.org/details/AffidavitsOnCelestialMarriage. See also Andrew Jenson, "Plural Marriage," Historical Record 6 (July 1887): 227; available at MormonPolygamyDocuments.org link JS1000. Joseph Fielding Smith, Blood Atonement and the Origin of Plural Marriage (Salt Lake City: Deseret News, 1905) 79. Available at https://archive.org/details/bloodatonementor00smit.  James Allred left a similar affidavit in 1869 (Joseph F. Smith Affidavit Books, 1:82.

[10] See Thomas Grover, Letter to A. Milton Musser, January 10, 1886; available at MormonPolygamyDocument.org link JS1264. See also Thomas Grover, Affidavit, July 6, 1869, Joseph F. Smith, Affidavit Book, 1:42; available at https://archive.org/details/AffidavitsOnCelestialMarriage. Abraham H. Cannon, "Diary Excerpts of Abraham H. Cannon," June 10, 1883; Austin Cowles, Affidavit, Nauvoo Expositor, June 7, 1844, 2; available at http://signaturebookslibrary.org/nauvoo-expositor/.

[11] Cyrus Wheelock, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent's testimony (part 3), page 542, question 141-42; page 540, question 96. Available at https://archive.org/details/TempleLotCaseTranscript. The names of the other men were Joseph Bates Noble, Daniel Davis, and two men with the surnames of Van Alstine and Williams.

[12] Cyrus Wheelock, deposition, Temple Lot transcript, respondent's testimony (part 3), page 539, question 79. Available at https://archive.org/details/TempleLotCaseTranscript.

[13] See Brian C. Hales, Joseph Smith's Polygamy: History and Theology, 3 vols., Salt Lake City: Greg Kofford Books, 2013, 2:139-52.

[14] George Albert Smith, Journal of Discourses, 14:213, August 13, 1871. Available at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/JournalOfDiscourses3/id/9609/rec/14.

[15] Lyndon W. Cook, Joseph C. Kingsbury, Provo, Utah: Grandin Book Co., 1985, 79.

[16] Horace K. Whitney journals, 1846-1847, entry for March 14, 1847, MS 1616, CHL.

[17] Helen Mar Kimball, Woman's Exponent, vol. 14, no. 4, 15 July 1885, pp. 30–31; available at http://contentdm.lib.byu.edu/cdm/compoundobject/collection/WomansExp/id/12626/rec/316.

[18] William Law, "Affidavit." Nauvoo Expositor 1, no. 1 (July 7, 1844): 2, available at http://signaturebookslibrary.org/nauvoo-expositor/.

[19] William Law in "The Law Interview," The Daily Tribune: Salt Lake City, Sunday Morning, July 31, 1887. Transcript available at http://www.sidneyrigdon.com/dbroadhu/ut/tribune2.htm#073187.