Food Storage & Other Adventures in Motherhood

In Sacred Loneliness Part 4: Polyandry, Miracles, an Apostle’s Wife & a Sacred Commitment

by heather

For those wondering why the wives of Joseph Smith are relevant, besides the fact that Mormon history is really fascinating, go back and read the first part of Part 1. In researching about polygamy, it really seems to me, that for those that practiced polygamy it was a great sanctifying thing they did to show their obedience. It was similar
to how modern Mormons feel about the Word of Wisdom. It was something that they did that showed their commitment to God, it was something that set them apart from outsiders and (often) it caused cohesiveness between members, because together they were living a difficult principle for the sake of their beliefs. In the nineteenth century, all leading Mormon women were expected to further the cause of polygamy, which was considered identical with the cause of the church. (pg 262) Here are a few quotes from early LDS Church leaders that help show how important the principle of polygamy was to the early Saints:

“Some quietly listen to those who speak against the plurality of wives, and against almost every principle that God has revealed. Such persons have half-a-dozen devils with them all the time. You might as well deny ‘Mormonism,’ and turn away from it, as to oppose the plurality of wives. Let the Presidency of this Church, and the Twelve Apostles, and all the authorities unite and say with one voice that they will oppose the doctrine, and the whole of them will be damned.”
– Apostle Heber C. Kimball, Journal of Discourses, vol. 5, p. 203

“It would be as easy for the United States to build a tower to remove the sun, as to remove polygamy, or the Church and kingdom of God.” – Apostle Heber C. Kimball, (Millennial Star, vol. 28, p.190)

“Monogamy, or restrictions by law to one wife, is no part of the economy of heaven among men. Such a system was commenced by the founders of the Roman empire….Rome became the mistress of the world, and introduced this order of monogamy wherever her sway was acknowledged. Thus this monogamic order of marriage, so esteemed by modern Christians as a holy sacrament and divine institution, is nothing but a system established by a set of robbers…. Why do we believe in and practice polygamy? Because the Lord introduced it to his servants in a revelation given to Joseph Smith, and the Lord’s servants have always practiced it.
– President Brigham Young, The Deseret News, August 6, 1862

“Now if any of you will deny the plurality of wives, and continue to do so, I promise that you will be damned. -President Brigham Young (Journal of Discourses, Vol. 3, p. 266).

“This law of monogamy, or the monogamic system, laid the foundation for prostitution and the evils and diseases of the most revolting nature and character under which modern Christendom groans,…”
– Apostle Orson Pratt, Journal of Discourses, Vol. 13, page 195

“Now I want to prophecy a little…. I want to prophecy that all men who oppose the revelation which God has given in relation to polygamy will find themselves in darkness; the Spirit of God will withdraw from them the very moment of their opposition to that principle, until they will finally go down to hell and be damned, if they do not repent…. if you do not become as dark as midnight there is no truth in Mormonism.”  Apostle Orson Pratt (Journal of Discourses, vol. 17, pp. 224-225)

“Though I go to prison, God will not change his law of celestial marriage. But the man, the people, the nation, that oppose and fight against this doctrine and the Church of God, will be overthrown.” President Lorenzo Snow (Historical Record, 1886, vol. 5, page 144)

These lives of these three wives again show the closeness between the wives of Joseph Smith and how their status as his widows made them elite Mormon women. Many of his wives, and other men who were early polygamists received their second anointing, meaning that there place in the highest degree of heaven had been assured.

Mary Elizabeth Rollins (Lightner Smith Young)
born April 9, 1818 in Lima, New York
married Adam Lightner Aug 11, 1835 in Clay County, Missouri
married Joseph Smith Feb, 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois*
married Brigham Young May 22, 1845 in Nauvoo, Illinois*
died December 17, 1913 in Minerville, Utah

  • Most of what we know about Mary Elizabeth comes from her autobiography and a few letters. Her autobiography is full of many miraculous tales. Like Presendia, Louisa, Patty and Sylvia she lived a difficult life and lost multiple children. (pg 205)
  • After her father’s early and unexpected death, Mary, her mother and siblings moved in with her uncle, Algernon Gilbert, who eventually moved the family to Mentor, Ohio in 1828 where he opened a store with Newel K. Whitney. (pg 206)
  • She was baptised by Parley P. Pratt in 1830. (pg 207)
  • When Isaac Morley (My 6th great-grandfather) bought a copy of the Book of Mormon, 12 year-old Mary persuaded him to let her borrow it. “If any person in this world was ever perfectly happy in the possession of any coveted treasure I was when I had permission to read that wonderful book.”  When Joseph Smith moved to Kirtland he gave Mary a blessing and her own copy of the book.(pg 207)
  • One evening in the fall of 1831 Oliver Cowdery and Thomas B. Marsh came to the Gilbert home and spoke in tongue. Mary interpreted and prophesied that the “Saints would be driven from Jackson County by mobs”. (pg 208)
  • Mary worked as a seamstress for Peter Whitmer, a tailor and assisted in making a suit for (then) Lt. Governor, Lilbrun Boggs. The Boggs family tried to persuade her to leave Mormonism and stay with them, but she refused. Mary also made money selling her paintings and giving art lessons. (pg 209)
  • On July 20, 1833 a mob attacked the office of The Evening and Morning Star. Mary and her sister Caroline overheard that the mob wanted to destroy the Book of Commandments (precursor to the Doctrine and Covenants). While they were busy prying open part of the building, Mary and Caroline went in through the back, gathered all of the printed sheets and saved them by hiding in a corn field. (pg 209)
  • In November, the Mormons were forced to move to Clay County where Mary began to teach a small school.
  • In June 1834, Zion’s camp—a paramilitary expedition led by Joseph Smith—marched from Ohio to Missouri. The Gilbert’s opened their house to many of this expedition. When cholera broke out, Algernon Gilbert was the first to die from it. (pg 209-210)
  • In her biography Mary said “In 1834 he (Joseph Smith) was commanded to take me for a Wife, I was a thousand miles from him, he got afraid.” She learned of this much later. (pg 210)
  • Even though her husband was a non-Mormon, they still suffered mob violence on multiple occasions.
  • The day after Haun’s Mill, Governor Boggs ordered that only two families should be spared, including the Lightners. When General Lucas requested that they leave, Mary refused. Heber C. Kimball said “Sister Lightner, God Almighty Bless you, I thank my God for One Soul that is ready to die for her Religion, not a hair on your head shall be harmed for I will wade to my knees in Blood in your behalf.” (pg 210)
  • Mary had dreams about Joseph. “I had been dreaming for a number of years that I was his wife. I thought I was a great sinner. I prayed to God to take it from me.” (pg 211)
  • In February 1842, Joseph Smith proposed to her. If Mary accepted him as her husband, her place in heaven would be assured. (pg 211-212)
  • Regarding polyandry Mary said “I can tell you why I stayed with Mr. Lightner. Things the leaders of the Church does not know anything about. I did just as Joseph told me to do, as he knew what troubles I would have to contend with.” (pg 213) This helped to preserve the secrecy of polygamy.
  • Throughout his life, Adam Lightner struggled to maintain employment. In the summer of 1842 he moved his family to Pontoosuc, where he had found a job. Joseph prophesied that if Mary left the Church she would have many financial troubles, illnesses and lose many children until she rejoined it. Throughout her autobiography she describes many strange and remarkable illnesses that she attributed to this prophesy. (pg 213)
  • In 1843, shortly after childbirth Mary and the rest of the Lightner family was very ill. There house was struck by lightning and Mary claimed that it cured her instantly. (pg 205)
  • In the fall of 1844, both Brigham Young and Heber C. Kimball proposed to Mary. She chose Brigham. On Jan 30, 1845, Mary recieved her endowment at Parley P. Pratt’s home. In May 1845 she was sealed to Brigham Young as a proxy for Joseph. (pg 214)
  • When the Saints were preparing to leave Nauvoo, Brigham asked Mary if she wanted to leave with them, and she said yes. A few days later she learned from her stepfather that Brigham and his family were already crossing the Mississippi. “I felt stunned, the thought came to me that Poligamy was of the Devil— and Brigham knew it, or he would have cut off his right hand before he would have left me…I wept myself sick.” (pg 215)
  • According to her nephew, an anti-Mormon mob threatened to murder Mary and her family in Nauvoo. She responded “Blow away, I’ll go back and die with them.” (pg 215)
  • In 1847, a quack doctor came selling a cure-all root. Each of the family tried samples. Her Aunt Gilbert and two sons were pronounced dead immediately after, although Aunt Gilbert was revived. Mary claimed he had anti-Mormon motives. While awaiting trial, he escaped, got lost in the woods and both his feet froze until the flesh dropped off the bones. (pg 216)
  • In the next few years, the Lightners moved several times. Her sister died, and she inherited her four children. At one point they managed a hotel in Wisconsin, where Mary a man that she suspected was one of the three Nephites visited. (pg 217)
  • In 1863, the Lightners started heading west and eventually settled in Minersville, UT. (pg 218)
  • Mary Elizabeth’s relationship with her other husband, Brigham Young is curiously distant, but occasionally their paths crossed. In an 1887 letter she  described her disappointment that Brigham did not follow through on his promises. (pg 219-220)
  • In 1865, Mary wrote of her prophetic dreams to Eliza Snow. Eliza shared them with Brigham and ‘he pronounced them good’. (pg 220)
  • In August 1887, Adam died  from tuberculosis after being ill for a few years. He left her with a significant amount of debt. The rest of her life she struggled financially as well as with depression. (pg 222)
  • Throughout her life she wrote letters back and forth with the others wives of Joseph Smith. In 1902 signed an affidavit documenting her marriage to Joseph Smith. (pg 225)
  • On April 14, 1905, she spoke to the graduating class of Brigham Young University, once again telling of her marriage to the prophet. (pg 226)
  • She outlived the first five presidents of the Latter-day Saint church, the first two of whom had been husbands. She was the last of Joseph Smith’s wives to die and one of only four who would live into the twentieth century. (pg 227)

Marinda Nancy Johnson (Hyde Smith)
born Jun 28, 1815 in Pomfret, Vermont
married Orson Hyde Sept 4, 1834 in Hiram, Ohio
married Joseph Smith April 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois*
divorced Orson Hyde in 1870
died March 24, 1886 in Salt Lake City, Utah

  • Marinda Nancy Johnson (also known as Nancy Marinda) was the seventh of fifteen children. She was an extremely important woman in early Mormon history. She left no personal history or journals, but there was an interview with her by a historian, and she is mentioned many times in the journals, letters and histories of other early members of the LDS Church. (pg 228-229) (I also found her obituary, picture and headstone here.)
  • When Marinda first heard of Joseph Smith, she thought he was a fraud and then was embarrassed to discover that her parents had invited him to a worship meeting at their home in Hiram, Ohio in 1831. After meeting him she said “She knew he was what he claimed to be and never doubted him thereafter.” (pg 228) Marinda was converted to Mormonism after Joseph Smith miraculously healed her mother’s arthritic arm. (pg 230)
  • In September 1831, Joseph and Emma Smith moved in with the Johnson family while Joseph and Sidney Rigdon worked on translating the Bible. (pg 230)
  • While staying with the Johnsons in March, 1832, Joseph Smith was dragged out of bed by a mob. The mob brought with them a doctor with the intent of castrating him, but when it came down to it, the doctor refused. Two members of the mob were Marinda’s brothers. Some suggest  that the doctor was brought because her brothers felt that Joseph had been too intimate with Marinda. Compton says that the sources suggesting impropriety are unreliable. Of the time Marinda said “Here I feel like bearing my testimony that during the whole year that Joseph was an inmate of my father’s house I never saw aught in his daily life or conversation to make me doubt his divine mission.” (pg 230-231)
  • Marinda married the strong-willed and dynamic new convert, Orson Hyde. Sidney Rigdon preformed the ceremony. Over the course of their marriage she had ten children. On February 15, 1835 Orson Hyde, as well as her brothers Luke and Lyman Johnson were ordained apostles. The calling of apostle at that time is different than it is in the modern LDS Church. Apostles were ‘presiding traveling missionaries’ (pg 232)
  • In April 1838, Marinda’s apostle brothers were excommunicated. This probably caused her a great deal of sorrow. (pg 233)
  • In October 1838, Orson Hyde and Thomas Marsh signed an affidavit that stated Mormons had plundered Gallatin and that Joseph Smith planned on taking control of the “state of Missouri, the United States and ultimately the whole world”. In March 1839 Orson Hyde had a dream that “if he did not make immediate restitution to the quorum of the Twelve, he would be cut off and all his posterity and the curse of Cain would be upon him” In May 1839 his case was debated at the church general conference and he was reinstated.
  • On April 6, 1840, Orson was called to go on a mission to Jerusalem. In October 1841, he reached the Mount of Olives in Palestine. He returned to Nauvoo on December 7, 1842.While Orson was traveling through Europe and the Middle East, Marinda and her two small children were living in poverty. (pg 235-240)
  • On Dec 2, 1841, Joseph Smith received a revelation that Ebenezer Robinson (who operated The Times and Seasons) should let Marinda move in with him and his family and “let my handmaid Nancy Marinda Hyde hearken to the counsel of my servant Joseph in all things whatsoever he shall teach unto her, and it shall be a blessing upon her  and upon her children after her, unto her justification saith the Lord”. The things Smith would “teach unto her” probably included polygyny and polyandry. (pg 236)
  • In Joseph Smith’s journal, in a list of marriages he wrote “Apr 42 Marinda Johnson to Joseph Smith”  There are multiple varying accounts on whether or not Orson Hyde was aware of Marinda’s marriage to Joseph before it occurred. (pg 238-239)
  • Three separate accounts say that Joseph asked Marinda to arrange a meeting between himself and Nancy Rigdon, so that he could propose to her in a locked room. Nancy was outraged at his words. “He requested Mrs. Hyde to explain matters to her; and after agreeing to write her a doctrinal letter left the house. Mrs. Hyde told her that these things looked strange to her at first, but that she would become more reconciled on mature reflection. Miss Rigdon replied, ‘I never shall’, left the house and returned home.” This incident caused conflict between Joseph and Sidney. (pg 239-240)
  • In the spring of 1843, Orson married two wives who joined the Hyde household. Marinda developed a strong attachment with these two women. In July 1843, Orson married a 4th wife. (pg 241-242)
  • In May 1843 Marinda’s sealing to Joseph Smith was repeated by Brigham Young. Eliza and Emily Partridge stood as witnesses. (pg 242)
  • In 1843 Marinda and Orson participated in ordinances with the Quorum of the Anointed, or Holy Order. Orson continued to serve multiple missions for the Church  (pg 242-243)
  • Unlike in the other polyandrous marriages, Orson and Marinda were sealed for time and eternity on Jan 11, 1846. This was shortly after they repeated their own endowments (pg 243)
  • The Hydes stayed in Nauvoo after the main party had left, so that Orson could dedicate the temple. They headed west in mid-May. They reached Council Bluffs in June. Marinda is noted in the journals of elite circle of Joseph Smith’s widows. In July, Orson left on another mission to England. When he returned he was called to preside over Winter Quarters. (pg 245)
  • In the summer of 1852, when Marinda was very pregnant, the Hydes finally journeyed to Salt Lake. That year he took another wife, and a previous plural wife abandoned the family. (pg 246)
  • In 1857, Orson (aged 52) married two 16 year-old girls. Shortly after this Marinda had herself resealed to Joseph for eternity.  In 1858 Orson and Marinda separated and he married four more young wives. (pg 247)
  • In 1868, Marinda was called to be the local Relief Society president and was on the board of directors for Deseret Hospital. (pg 248)
  • A fellow member of her Relief Society quoted her saying about the poor “Well, God made them, and we must make the best of them…Quoting the words of Jesus, she would say ‘Remember the poor, for them we have always,’ and Even as ye do it unto the least of these, ye do it unto me.” (pg 249)
  • Her granddaughters described her: “She was so loving and sympathetic with her children and most affectionate with all her grandchildren, which were many…She was a lovely creature, dignified, always well groomed, and was so much a lady with a lovely lace on her head and over her shoulders. She was a good housekeeper and kept her mind active, took keen interest in life and people as long as she lived.” (pg 251)
  • Helen Mar Kimball (Whitney) described attending ‘quite the party’ for Marinda’s 70th birthday. The Woman’s Exponent described the event “After supper the ladies indulged in a little speech making in her honor…to express sentiments of love and admiration they felt for this honored mother in Israel” (pg 251)
  • Upon her death Woman’s Exponent published “She was a noble example of the Christian graces. When her family or friends were in trouble, she uttered the words of comfort, of patience and cheer…To say that we will miss her, will express very weakly the deep feelings of regret her death has caused.” (pg 252)

Elizabeth Davis (Goldsmith Brackenbury Durfee Smith Lott)
born Mar 11, 1791 in Riverhead, New York
married Gilbert Goldsmith Apr 13, 1811 in Cutchogue, New York
married Joseph Blanchette Brackenbury in 1818/1819 in Long Island, New York
married Jabez Durfee Mar 3, 1834 in Clay County, Missouri
married Joseph Smith spring 1842 in Nauvoo, Illinois*
married Cornelius P Lott Jan 22, 1846 in Nauvoo, Illinois*
died Nov/Dec 1876 in White Cloud, Kansas

  • Elizabeth was the sixth of seven children and was raised Presbyterian.There are no available journals or personal histories from her, leaving many details of her life missing. (pg 255)
  • Her first husband was a sailor. Less than a year after their marriage she gave birth to twin boys, one of which died. A few weeks later her husband was drowned at sea. (pg 255)
  • In 1824, she and her second husband moved to New London, Ohio. In April 1831, they joined the LDS Church. They were baptized and confirmed by John Carl and Solomon Hancock (Fanny Alger’s uncle). (pg 256)
  • In October 1831, her husband Joseph Brackenbury left to serve a mission. In December, he died of a “billious cholic”. Some suggested that he was poisoned. He left Elizabeth with four young sons, but her oldest son Gilbert was 21 and able to help her. (pg 257)
  • In spring 1832, Elizabeth moved to Jackson County, Missouri. During the mobbings, she and her young children hid in a corn field. Soon after they were driven from their homes. On the night they left, Elizabeth and the boys saw the spectacular shower of falling stars that so encouraged the persecuted Latter-day Saints with its promise of the second coming. (pg 258-259)
  • In 1834, she married the widowed father-in-law of her oldest son and the two families combined. In 1835 they moved to Far West, Missouri. In 1838 they moved to Quincy, Illinois. On Jan 11, 1840 she received a patriarchal blessing from Joseph Smith, Sr. (pg 259)
  • On Jan 11, 1842 Joseph Smith invited Elizabeth and Jabez to a dinner party attended by Nauvoo’s leading citizens, including apostles and Smith relatives. Elizabeth had joined the Mormon elite. (pg 260)
  • Of Elizabeth’s marriage to Joseph itself, little is known. We do know that she helped Joseph arrange new polygamous marriages and she continued to live with her previous husband, Jabez, who was an active faithful member of the Church. (pg 260) On October 1, 1843, Joseph Smith wrote in his journal that she participated with him in the Anointed Quorum. (pg 254)
  • Elizabeth was actively involved in the Nauvoo Relief Society meetings. Meeting reports show her being “articulate and enthusiastic”. (pg 260-261)
  • In April 1842, Elizabeth suffered from an unnamed illness. Emma Smith and her RS counselors gave her a blessing and she was healed. When Emma was sick a few months later, Elizabeth tended to her. (pg 261)
  • Zina Huntington reported a conversation between Elizabeth and Emma in which Elizabeth asked her if she felt that Joseph was a prophet. “Yes, Emma answered, but I wish to God I did not know it.” (pg 261)
  • In March 1843, Elizabeth taught Emily and Eliza Partridge (who later married Joseph Smith also) about “the subject of spiritual wives”. Elizabeth, like all Mormon, had accepted him (Joseph Smith) as an infallible leader and it was the intensity of her religiosity that led her to influence other women to enter polygamy. (pg 262)
  • In Jan 1844, William Clayton (Joseph Smith’s secretary) recorded that Elizabeth had made his temple robe and garment for him. (pg 262)
  • Elizabeth and her sons were with Emma when the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum were brought back to the Mansion House. Her oldest, Gilbert stood watch over the bodies and helped move them between their various burial locations. (pg 263)
  • In December 1845, Elizabeth and Jabez received their endowments, but not together. Jabez was sealed to his dead wife and his brother’s living widow, but not Elizabeth, his living wife. Elizabeth was sealed to Joseph Smith for eternity with Cornelius Lott standing proxy in January 1846. (pg 264)
  • Elizabeth headed west with Cornelius and got as far as the Missouri River. She then deserted Brigham and the LDS Saints and headed back to Quincy to be with Emma, and took her children with her. (pg 265)
  • Elizabeth spent the rest of her life moving around the country with her sons. In 1858 she lived in Utah for a brief time and was re-baptized into the LDS Church. In November 1869 she was re-baptized into the RLDS Church. (pg 266)
  • She remains one of the most interesting of Joseph’s wives, a puzzle only partially solved. (pg 269)

In Sacred Loneliness Part 2

In Sacred Loneliness Part 3


2 Responses to “In Sacred Loneliness Part 4: Polyandry, Miracles, an Apostle’s Wife & a Sacred Commitment”

  1. Wow that picture of Mary Rollins, (my GGGGGreat Aunt) looks exactly like the picture I posted on my web site over 18 years ago.

    I took the B&W picture from the Historical quarterly and converted it to a Duotone, i.e. kind of like a black and white photo but is dark brown and white.

    Where did you get the picture that so closely matches mine in color when the original was b/w ?

    • heather says:

      I’m not sure how the image is looking on your screen, but the photo I see and downloaded is black and white. I image googled her name and picked the photo that matched the one in Compton’s book.

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