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Anderson and Faulring Questioning the Reliability of Andrew Jenson
The main piece of evidence that Anderson and Faulring dispute in disallowing the four wives in question is Andrew Jenson's list of twenty-seven wives published in 1887. So to assess Anderson's and Faulring's proposed shortened list, we must first evaluate Jenson and his list.
I was very surprised to find Anderson and Faulring portraying Jenson's list as unreliable -- I was, you might even say, staggered. Knowing Anderson's background objecting to evidence antagonistic to Joseph Smith in his early folk-magic era, one might expect him to object to use of any kind of antagonistic evidence. (And in fact, Anderson and Faulring often do object categorically to any use of antagonistic evidence, see above.) However, to portray the completely orthodox Assistant Church Historian Andrew Jenson as unreliable strikes me as unaccountable, even approaching the bizarre.
To support this position, Anderson and Faulring stage a concerted attack on Jenson's list. It is "secondary, without information on why he included a given person." (p. 74) They seem to allow the women included in his list with a date of sealing, including who performed it, but not those included without a date. In addition, they criticize Jenson's research as "imperfect" because he missed listing a few women who were sealed to Joseph.
So let us examine these charges. First, Anderson and Faulring assert that this list is "secondary," i.e., second-hand. It is true that Jenson was not present at any of the sealings he lists. But, as we have seen, no evidence is perfect. In fact, some second-hand evidence is reliable, and other second-hand evidence is suspect. Some "second-hand" evidence is very impressive. In second-hand evidence one must ask, is the original source reliable? And is the person reporting the original source reliable? If they both are reliable, one can accept the source as very valuable. (Not perfect; but no evidence is perfect.)
For instance, I don't think any reasonable person would deny that Sarah and Maria Lawrence married Joseph Smith. The evidence for that is overwhelming. But it is not evidence from Sarah or Maria themselves. Maria died in 1847, leaving not a single document written by herself. Sarah died in 1872, again leaving not a single document written by herself that I know of, and in her later life she reportedly denied that she married Joseph Smith. On the other hand, Emily Partridge Smith Young, Helen Mar Kimball Smith Whitney, and Lucy and Lovina Walker provided convincing evidence that Sarah and Maria married Joseph, though none of them were present at the sealings, to the best of our knowledge. (Jenson also lists the Lawrence sisters.) So secondary evidence can be reliable.
Therefore our first task is to assess the reporting source here, Andrew Jenson. Is he anti- Mormon? Just the opposite -- he is an official church historian trying to defend the church. Second, was he known as wildly speculative, given to concocting outlandish stories? No, just the opposite. He was stolid, enormously laborious, very good at accumulating information in unimaginative, reliable ways. Finally, was he dishonest? No, I am confident that no one would assert that. Would he have lightly made an incorrect listing of a woman on the list? No, clearly not. He certainly realized the gravity of what he was publishing.
The best treatment of Andrew Jenson as a historian is found in Davis Bitton and Leonard J. Arrington's Mormons and Their Historians.[53a] They write of Jenson that “His was not great interpretive history, but it was factual, honest history.” This is far from Anderson and Faulring's picture of Jenson bolstering his plural marriage argument by padding a list of wives on flimsy or no evidence. Bitton and Arrington also write, “Jenson’s style was factual and simple, emphasizing accuracy in dates and figures.” Bitton and Arrington emphasize that Jenson's historical method is not imaginative or interpretive; instead, it is “factual” and “accurate.”
So, we must ask, were Jenson's sources reliable? Anderson and Faulring write that he included these three women "without information on why he included a given person." This is not strictly true. Immediately before the list, Jenson wrote, "Summing up the information received from the parties already mentioned and from other sources, we find that the following named ladies, besides a few others, about whom we have been unable to get all the necessary information, were sealed to the Prophet Joseph Smith during the last three years of his life." He got his information "from the parties already mentioned" previously in the article (which published a number of affidavits) "and from other sources." These were many of the women and men who had been in Nauvoo and who had known Joseph Smith and his plural wives intimately, such as William Clayton (who performed one of Joseph Smith's plural marriages) and Benjamin Johnson (two of whose sisters married Joseph Smith). And it includes some of Joseph Smith's plural wives, who were alive and living in Utah. Furthermore, Jenson left off the list names of women "about whom we have been unable to get all the necessary information." The women he allowed on the list did have the "necessary information" to back them up.
I cannot imagine that Anderson and Faulring would deny that Joseph Smith's living plural wives were very good sources for information on other plural wives, because they socialized with each other in Nauvoo and later, as is shown often in my book. How many of Joseph's wives were available to Jenson as sources in the 1880's, when he was doing his research on Joseph's plural wives? I list those who were alive in that time period (the 1880's), though those who died before 1887 are given with death date: Zina Huntington Jacobs Smith Young (Salt Lake City). Presendia Huntington Buell Smith Kimball (Salt Lake City). Sylvia Sessions Lyon Smith Kimball Clark (Bountiful, just north of Salt Lake City, died 1882). Mary Rollins Lightner Smith Young (Beaver, frequently visited Salt Lake City). Patty Bartlett Sessions Smith (Bountiful). Marinda Johnson Hyde Smith (Salt Lake City, died 1886). Eliza R. Snow Smith Young (Salt Lake City). Martha McBride Knight Smith Kimball (Hooper, outside Ogden). Ruth Vose Sayers (died 1884, Salt Lake City). Emily Partridge Smith Young (Salt Lake City). Eliza Partridge Smith Lyman (Oak Creek, near Fillmore, in central Utah, died 1886). Almera Johnson Smith Barton (Parowan, in southern Utah). Lucy Walker Smith Kimball (Salt Lake City, Logan). Helen Mar Kimball Smith Whitney (Salt Lake City). Desdemona Fullmer Smith Benson McLane (Salt Lake City, died 1886). Melissa Lott Smith Bernhisel Willes (Lehi, some 40 miles south of Salt Lake City). Though most of these were living in northern Utah, Jenson often traveled through Utah doing local histories, so he might have met those not living in Salt Lake City.
Finally, there is documentary evidence that Jenson consulted with Joseph Smith's plural wives while researching the subject of Joseph Smith's polygamy. On February 10, 1887, Emmeline B. Wells wrote to Mary Elizabeth Lightner, one of Joseph's widows, and mentioned Jenson's ongoing research project documenting the plural wives of Joseph Smith: "Br. Jenson who publishes the Historical Record wants to get interesting biographical sketches and incidents of all those who are sealed to the Prophet Joseph for publication. I shall tell him to write to you for yours, I do think your life has been rich in wonderful experiences. He particularly wants dates of the ceremony performed." This shows that Jenson had enlisted Emmeline B. Wells to reach out to Joseph Smith's plural wives for information. Wells, of course, was or had been a good friend of many of Joseph Smith's plural wives, such as Eliza Snow, Zina Young, Helen Mar Whitney and Sarah Ann Whitney Kimball. (Wells had been a plural wife of Newel K. Whitney in early Mormonism, so had close ties with the Whitney-Kimball axis of families.)
In a letter with no year date, but probably written in 1887, on June 8, Zina Huntington Young, another of Joseph's widows, also wrote to Mary Lightner and mentioned the Jenson project, requesting her to write her life story for him: "Br Jenson the Editor is trying to get the names of Br Joseph Smith wives a little sketch of ther history their testimonies &c that will have a good influence and substanciate the truth, he wants to have, to place in his history, I promised to write to you, he gave me the book to send you // I know you are rich in experience and are capable of making an interesting chapter." Two weeks later, in another letter, she renewed her request for Mary to write her history for Jenson.
Jenson contacted Helen Mar Whitney directly. On May 23, 1887, she wrote in her journal, "A Brother called to see me about writing my testimony concerning plural marriage as wife of the Prophet Joseph to publish in a monthly publication of his with that of others. He edits a Danish magazine — forget title." A month later, on June 27, she again mentioned a visit from Jenson: "Bro. Gensen called to see me - wants me to write up incidents of my life as soon as I can. I gave him a few incidents of Flora Gove's life who was a wife of Joseph Smith." Flora Woodworth Gove is another wife of Joseph Smith who died before coming to Utah, so we have no affidavit evidence for her. But the second hand testimonies of William Clayton, Andrew Jenson, and Helen Mar are sufficient to accept her as Joseph Smith's wife.
While some of the dates on these letters are after the first publication of Jenson's list, they show how easy it was for him to contact living plural wives of Joseph Smith, and Zina Young's letter to Elizabeth Lightner shows how Joseph's widows themselves were helping Jenson.
Therefore, since you cannot attack Jenson as inherently unreliable or anti-Mormon, or his sources as unknowledgeable, it is difficult to see how you can reject his listing of wives. If you are going to throw this out as second hand, you should be consistent in throwing out all second hand evidence, which would be absurd. One certainly should use second-hand evidence carefully, and some of it certainly can be unreliable, but Jenson's list is very solid second-hand evidence, with the short, strong chain of Jenson / living plural wives of Joseph Smith.
So, the burden of proof is on Anderson and Faulring to show that Jenson or his sources, Joseph Smith's living plural wives, were not reliable witnesses. If they could produce an example of Jenson's extreme bias, that would help. Anderson and Faulring do make a final argument attacking his reliability: "His research was imperfect, for he failed to name several women where adequate evidence shows they were sealed to the Prophet." This is very weak -- Jenson did not have our resources or accumulation of evidence. It is unfair to demand that he know all the wives we know about. That he knew about twenty-seven of them is a remarkable piece of research, though, of course, he had living widows of Joseph Smith to interview and even help him collect information.
If I had used John Bennett in a primary way, I would have been roundly attacked by Anderson and Faulring and Bachman. (And in fact, though I use Bennett in a very secondary way, Bachman still portrays me as completely influenced by him, p. 131.) But in a startling turn of events, here I am coming under fire for using Jenson, a very conservative source, an Assistant Church Historian -- and moreover, a very reliable early historian.
So I find Anderson and Faulring's attempt to trim my list from thirty-three to twenty-nine completely unconvincing, an unexplainable scholarly judgment. They probably will have an uphill battle if they want to seriously convince other historians that Jenson is dishonest, or incompetent, or that he did not have access to Joseph's wives, or other knowledgeable Nauvoo veterans.
Incidentally, though Anderson and Faulring refer to Bachman's list of thirty-one wives only in passing (pp. 72-73), Bachman included on his list the three women on Jenson's list whom they disallow. In fact, Bachman includes one woman on his list whom I cautiously place on my Possible Wives list, Vienna Jacques. They attack me for allegedly not taking Bachman's thesis seriously enough; then they do not take his judgment into account on an important issue.
Therefore, I would regard Jenson's list, alone, as providing a strong case for accepting a woman as married to Joseph Smith. Anderson and Faulring will need to present a forceful demolition of Jenson's credibility to change my mind on that. (And imagine what a strange picture that will present: modern FARMS/BYU researchers making an elaborate attack on the extremely conservative former Assistant Church Historian.) I am not arguing that Jenson is perfect; only that he is generally extremely trustworthy. If Anderson and Faulring can find evidence that Jenson, driven by anti-RLDS venom, was trying to pad his list dishonestly, I would be willing to consider it.
However, in considering the validity of these three women as plural wives, in no case was Jenson my only source. I will consider them one by one.
Jenson does not give us a specific date for this marriage, but many reliable women on the list are not given a specific date. (He lists Fanny Alger, Lucinda Harris, Hannah Ells, Flora Woodworth, Ruth Vose, Mary Lightner, Olive Frost, Rhoda Richards, Sylvia Sessions, Maria Winchester, Elvira Cowles, and Sarah Cleveland without specific dates.) Some women are only given a vague year for the marriage (Desdemona Fullmer, Sarah and Maria Lawrence.) However, Jenson does limit the time frame for Lucinda: she was "one of the first women sealed to the Prophet Joseph." Jenson obviously is not simply speculating here.
Next, Lucinda had an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Temple, with her husband George Washington Harris standing proxy for Smith. As Anderson and Faulring note (p. 74), I use the evidence of these early proxy marriages cautiously (see In Sacred Loneliness, 2), since I discovered that one of them, Cordelia Morley Cox, wrote that Joseph Smith had proposed to her, but she had never married him while he lived. Therefore, I concluded that proxy marriages, by themselves, could not be used as certain evidence for a marriage to the living Joseph Smith. I think this was a careful, reasonable approach. Nevertheless, in my view, early proxy marriages, combined with other evidence, are very good evidence for a marriage to the living Joseph Smith. For instance, of the thirty-three women on my list, the following had early (i.e., Nauvoo Temple) proxy marriages to Joseph Smith: Lucinda Harris, Louisa Beaman, Zina Huntington Young, Presendia Huntington Kimball, Agnes Coolbrith Smith, Sylvia Sessions Lyon, Mary Rollins Lightner, Elizabeth Davis Durfee, Sarah Cleveland, Eliza Snow, Sarah Ann Whitney, Martha McBride Knight, Emily Partridge, Eliza Partridge, Lucy Walker, Sarah Lawrence, Maria Lawrence, Helen Mar Kimball, Elvira Cowles Holmes, Rhoda Richards, Desdemona Fullmer, Olive Frost, Melissa Lott, and Nancy Winchester.
The women who did not have early proxy marriages were mostly special cases. Hannah Ells died before the Nauvoo Temple was ready. Flora Woodworth eloped with a non-Mormon before the Temple was completed. Marinda Johnson Hyde was in a polyandrous relationship with an apostle. One can see that the polyandrous relationships might have made wives reluctant to solemnize marriages to Joseph Smith in the temple. Delcena Johnson had an early proxy marriage, but to her first husband, Lyman Sherman (she had married Smith as a widow). Patty Sessions was in a polyandrous relationship. Ruth Vose, in a polyandrous relationship, was married to a non- Mormon. Almera Johnson and Fanny Young are the only real exceptions.
Thus the great majority of Joseph Smith's wives did have early proxy marriages to Smith in the Nauvoo Temple. Therefore, an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith is an important pointer, and if it will not prove the marriage to the living Joseph Smith by itself, it is very strong corroborative evidence.
Therefore, we have Jenson, who I would accept on his own, as evidence for Lucinda, but we also have another solid piece of entirely conservative evidence, the early proxy marriage. Those two, taken together, make a very solid case for Lucinda, unless we find equally good evidence contradicting it.
However, we have one more witness, Sarah Pratt, as reported in Wyl. Sarah was antagonistic, but in Lawrence Foster's terminology, she is first-hand witness. She was in Nauvoo; she certainly knew Lucinda Morgan. So Anderson and Faulring's attempts to simply disregard Pratt are not convincing. Sarah Pratt should be considered by any responsible historian. But I adduce Sarah as supporting evidence, after using Jenson and the proxy marriage as primary evidence, and as I usually do with this kind of evidence, I make allowances for extreme rhetoric.
With these three pieces of evidences corroborating each other (and I would trust Jenson alone), Lucinda is a very solid case.
First, there is Jenson, and again, I would trust Jenson alone. But once more, there are multiple pieces of corroborative evidence. There is the early Nauvoo Temple proxy marriage to Joseph Smith, with John Smith standing proxy. In addition, Eliza Snow later testified that when she (Eliza) married Joseph Smith on June 29, 1842, Sarah Cleveland stood as one of the witnesses. This was a task usually given to previously married wives of the prophet. For instance, Sylvia Sessions Lyon was present when her mother Patty was sealed to Joseph on March 9, 1842. (In Sacred Loneliness, 179.) Louisa Beaman was present when Almera Johnson married Joseph. (In Sacred Loneliness, 297.) Eliza Partridge was present when Lucy Walker married Joseph, and also when Elvira Cowles Holmes married him. (In Sacred Loneliness, 465, 548.)
Sometimes family members were present at plural marriages (e.g., In Sacred Loneliness, 81, 349), but obviously Sarah Cleveland was not a relative of Eliza Snow. Anderson and Faulring suggest that Sarah was present at Eliza's marriage only because Eliza was staying at her house. However, polygamy was such a closely guarded secret that it is unlikely that this was the reason, especially considering the evidence adduced above. (For the cloak-and- dagger atmosphere of secrecy found in Nauvoo polygamy, see In Sacred Loneliness, 59, 350.) Again, I would not propose this alone; but as corroborative evidence it has real weight.
Eliza R. Snow, Sarah's good friend, lived until December 5, 1887, and Andrew Jenson had complete access to Eliza in the years while he was researching his list. In fact, Eliza would be Jenson's logical source. However, Sarah Cleveland's daughter, Augusta, had married John Lyman Smith, and had come to Utah. She was also available as a source, for she lived till 1903, dying in Idaho.
Nancy Maria Winchester.
Again, I would be happy to rest my case with Jenson. However, once again, Jenson has impressive corroborative evidence. First, we have an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith in the Nauvoo Temple. Then we have Orson Whitney's Life of Heber Kimball, which was published in Salt Lake City in 1888. Orson wrote, "After the death of the Prophet Joseph, who had also taken many wives, most of his widows were married, for time, to Brigham, Heber and others of the martyr's brethren. The wives of the Prophet who wedded Heber C. Kimball were Sarah Ann Whitney, eldest daughter of Bishop N.K. Whitney; Lucy Walker, Prescindia Huntington, Sarah Lawrence, Mary Houston, Martha McBride, Sylvia P. Sessions, Nancy Maria Smith and Sarah Scott." (p. 431) On p. 436, Whitney lists wives of Heber who have not had children by him, "most" of whom were aged ladies who he did not live with. (This would not be the case with Nancy Maria, who was very young when Heber married her.) Among them he lists "Maria Winchester."
Orson apparently did not understand that "Maria Winchester" was the same as "Nancy Maria Smith." But there is little doubt that this was the case. Subsequent lists of Heber C. Kimball's wives show that the only Nancy Maria in his family was Nancy Maria Winchester.
With that aside, Whitney's list is interesting for a number of reasons. First, close readers of my book will notice two names I did not include on my list of 33 wives, Mary Houston and Sarah Scott. However, they are on my Possible Wives list. Anderson and Faulring suggest that I thus treat Whitney's list as "questionable" (p. 77). If I thought Whitney was unreliable evidence -- anti- Mormon, sensationalizing, not having access to solid sources -- I obviously would have never mentioned him at all. Actually, I did not include Mary and Sarah only because I wanted to "err on the side of caution." I seriously debated including Sarah, especially since her proxy marriage was to her first husband, James Mulholland, not to Joseph Smith (which showed that Whitney was not simply using an early proxy marriage to Joseph Smith as his evidence.) However, I decided that, to avoid even the appearance of padding my list, I would put Sarah and Mary in the "Possible Wives" category, though Sarah is a very strong "Possible Wife." (I would have never expected a conservative, FARMS-sponsored attack on the credibility of Jenson and Whitney, obviously.)
I should emphasize that Whitney's list overtly refers to women who married Joseph Smith before his death. It is not referring to proxy marriages. This is proven by the fact that Sarah Scott did not have a proxy marriage to Joseph Smith. In fact, the Book of Proxy, #160, the original Nauvoo Temple proxy sealing record, refers to her as "Sarah Smith," see In Sacred Loneliness, 631.
Who was Orson Whitney? At the time of writing the Kimball biography, he was an influential bishop in one of the central Salt Lake City wards, an important journalist for the Deseret News and a popular Church speaker and orator. He would later be called as an apostle. There is no question, by any stretch of imagination, that he was writing out of anti- Mormon bias. Furthermore, he also wrote the multi-volumed History of Utah that stands in the same category as Jenson's work: first rate, unimaginative, generally reliable history, written from the perspective of the most conservative Mormonism. He was not one given to wild fictionalizing as a historian.
Did he have access to Kimball family and Smith family sources? His mother was Helen Mar Kimball (Smith Whitney), the only living daughter of Heber Kimball with his first wife Vilate. Orson thus grew up knowing the extensive Kimball family on an intimate basis. And Helen Mar, of course, had been an actual wife of Joseph Smith in Nauvoo, and was friendly with other Smith widows in Salt Lake City. Orson had frequent contact with his mother while he wrote the biography of his grandfather. As if that were not enough, his aunt Sarah Ann Whitney Kimball, his father's sister, had also been a plural wife of Joseph Smith and of Heber C. Kimball.
In summary, I regard Anderson and Faulring's attempts to undermine Jenson's and Whitney's credibility, along with all the corroborative evidence supporting their lists, as unconvincing and extremely odd.
So we finally turn to Elizabeth Davis (Anderson and Faulring, p. 76). Though she does not show up on Jenson's list, the sheer weight of evidence, conservative and antagonistic, pointing to her as a wife of Joseph is very impressive. If we were dealing with one or even two flimsy pieces of evidence, Anderson and Faulring might have a reasonable argument for disallowing her -- but that is not the case.
To look at conservative evidence first, there is an early, Nauvoo Temple proxy marriage to Joseph Smith. As I mentioned above, this is an important pointer. Though I would not accept it alone, if there is corroborative evidence I accept it as very convincing.
Second, Emily Partridge's autobiographical writings show that Elizabeth Davis acted for Joseph Smith as an agent in recruiting Emily into polygamy (In Sacred Loneliness, 407). As I have mentioned above, there is a great deal of evidence showing that Joseph often used his previously married wives in approaching prospective wives. Louisa Beaman and Delcena Johnson help prepare Almera Johnson (In Sacred Loneliness, 297); Marinda Hyde tries to prepare Nancy Rigdon (In Sacred Loneliness, 239). The data for previous wives present at marriage ceremonies, adduced above, at the very least shows previous wives giving moral support to the proceedings, and may be the sign of previous socialization of the prospective wife by the other wives.
Taken together, these two pieces of evidence create a good foundation for Elizabeth as a plural wife of Smith. But there is further evidence, Bennett, Sarah Pratt, and Jackson. The former two are very "primary" antagonistic evidence. Bennett, for all his character flaws, was in Nauvoo, was a close friend of Joseph Smith, and was an Assistant President of the church. His list of plural wives is made more believable by the fact that it is not surrounded by rhetoric -- it is a bare list. And other names on the list fit with supporting evidence. It is interesting that here, for the first time, Elizabeth Durfee and Patty Sessions are found linked with each other. Patty, of course, was certainly a plural wife of Joseph Smith, for in her own diaries she left a record of her marriage ceremony to Smith. (She left no formal affidavit.)
Sarah Pratt, the wife of an important early apostle, was also in Nauvoo and in Utah. She said, "She [Elizabeth] boasted here in Salt Lake of having been one of Joseph's plural wives." (quoted in In Sacred Loneliness, 701.) Anderson and Faulring seem to be certain that Sarah could not have heard Elizabeth do the boasting, but supply no reason for this. That seems to be the import of the statement to me. Elizabeth was in Utah for a period of time. Sarah Pratt was in Utah. Anderson and Faulring's reasoning escapes me here.
Joseph Jackson was a more peripheral figure in Nauvoo Mormonism than Bennett and Pratt, so, once again, I use him only as corroboration. But he is valuable corroboration. He asserts that Elizabeth, with two other women, was a "Mother in Israel" who helped teach younger women the principles of polygamy. He does not explicitly say that "Mothers in Israel" were wives of Joseph Smith. Nevertheless his list is as follows: "Mrs. Tailar, old Madam Durfee and old Madam Sessions." (quoted at In Sacred Loneliness, 260). Once again, we see Elizabeth Durfee linked with Patty Sessions, and we know that Patty was a plural wife of Joseph Smith. Note that Emily Partridge supports Jackson, for she portrays Elizabeth as helping facilitate Joseph's marriage to her, a younger woman.
There is one more source, this one sympathetic, that links Elizabeth and Patty. In the Willard Richards journal, July 9, 1845, we read that "Sister Durphy, Sessions, Rhoda [Richards]" (another older wife of Joseph Smith) and other women helped prepared Willard Richard's wife for burial. (In Sacred Loneliness, 264). This supports a pattern in Bennett and Jackson, the linking of Elizabeth and Patty.
Starting from the proxy marriage and adding all of these data, we end up with a very strong case for Elizabeth Durfee as a plural wife. Note how each piece of evidence supports other pieces of evidence. Elizabeth Durfee and Patty Sessions are linked by Bennett, Jackson, Willard Richards. Elizabeth Durfee as agent for recruiting young plural wives is found in Partridge and Jackson. Elizabeth as plural wife of Joseph is shown by the proxy marriage, Bennett, and Pratt, and is supported by the linking with Patty Sessions. So unless Anderson and Faulring find actual positive evidence showing that Elizabeth was not a wife of Joseph, the case for her as one of Joseph's older plural wives remains very strong, in my view.