Table of Contents:
The Polygamy Story: Fiction and Fact
(by permission of the author)
John Taylor set the five mentioned apart and gave them authority to perform marriage ceremonies, and also to set others apart to do the same thing as long as they remained on the earth; and while doing so, the Prophet Joseph Smith stood by directing the proceedings. Two of us had not met the Prophet Joseph Smith in his mortal lifetime, and we--Charles H. Wilkins and myself--were introduced to him and shook hands with him.
Joseph Musser reported the following additional information relating to the Prophet's role in the proceedings:
Instructions to the five: "You will have the weight of this world upon you and one of you will have to stand alone." Joseph Smith laid his hands upon their heads while John Taylor set them apart, or acted as mouth.1
This physical contact implies that Joseph Smith was a resurrected being in 1886.2 There is some confusion in Fundamentalist circles, however, concerning exactly when the alleged resurrection took place.
Joseph and Hyrum Brought to Utah?
There seems to have been a rumor circulating among some of the early Saints that Brigham Young brought the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith to the Salt Lake Valley by wagon and buried them on Temple Square. Fundamentalists have believed and circulated this rumor. Charles W. Kingston, a contemporary of Lorin Woolley, gave the following testimony on this subject:
Lorin Woolley said that the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum Smith were dug up, put in new caskets, and brought to the Salt Lake Valley at a very early date. Lorin further stated that the bodies were buried in the Salt Lake temple grounds.3
The following account is taken from the journal of Fundamentalist Robert Shrewsberry:
Patriarch Harrison Sperry (died abt. 1928 at age of almost 99) told Bro. Worth Kilgrow (told the story to him three times) that B[righam] Y[oung], H. C. Kimball and Bro. Wilcox (Amanda H. Wilcox's husband) went back to the Mansion House at Nauvoo (Joseph's home) in 1848 and dug up the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum and brought them to Salt Lake in a sealed wagon.
When they arrived late in the fall of 1848 they opened up the wagon. He, Bro. Sperry, saw the bodies, with a few other trusted ones, lying in their caskets, side by side. He said they looked very natural, almost as tho asleep. He was about fifteen yrs. old at the time. He told this story a year or two before he died. . . . Dictated to me by Bro. W. Kilgrow in Jan. l939.4
Let us investigate the validity of this claim.
Brigham Young's journal for 1848 does not report his making a trip back to Nauvoo. He spent the early summer of 1848 at Winter Quarters prior to returning to Salt Lake City. Further, the Prophet Joseph Smith instructed Brigham Young, and perhaps others, concerning where he wished to be buried and thus to rise from in the resurrection:
While Joseph was alive he said, "If I am slain in battle or fall by the hands of my enemies I want my body brought to Nauvoo and laid in the tomb I have prepared."5
We are determined also to use every means in our power to do all that Joseph told us. And we will petition Sister Emma in the name of Israel's God, to let us deposit the remains of Joseph according as he commanded us. And if she will not consent to it, our garments are clear. Then when he awakes in the morning of the resurrection, he will talk with them, not with me; the sin shall be upon her head, not ours.6
In a letter written in 1904 to Bishop David McKay of Huntsville, President Joseph F. Smith confirmed the fulfillment of the Prophet's request:
The story about the bodies of the Prophets Joseph and Hyrum Smith having been brought to this country by the pioneers is a fallacy; they were buried in Nauvoo, and their resting place remains undisturbed.7
Joseph Smith Resurrected by 1846-47?
John Musser differs in belief with the rank and file of Fundamentalism. He reported:
John Taylor said at the Carlisle home to L. C. W. [Lorin C. Woolley], "Joseph Smith, as a resurrected being, guided Brigham Young across the plains and led him to Utah. His remains were not brought to Utah by wagon as many have supposed.8
Lorin C. Woolley told J. W. Musser: "... Brigham Young, John Taylor, Wilford Woodruff and, of course, Joseph Smith, had been resurrected, and that Joseph Smith, in resurrected form, had led the people to these mountains in 1847."9
Daniel R. Bateman related: "President John Taylor, told, in my presence, time and time again, that Joseph and Hyrum, in their resurrected bodies, had led the Saints to these valleys, going before the first Company of emigrants. Prest. Woodruff and Prest. Snow also made the same statement in my hearing."10
If Lorin Woolley had read the Journal of Discourses he would have found that Brigham Young repudiated the idea of Joseph and Hyrum being resurrected at the time the first pioneers crossed the plains. On March 15, 1857, some ten years after the Saints' arrival in the Salt Lake Valley, Brigham Young stated:
Joseph is not resurrected; and if you will visit the graves you will find the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum yet in their resting place. Do not be mistaken about that; they will be resurrected in due time.
Jesus had a work to do on the earth. He performed his mission, and then was slain for his testimony. So it has been with every man who has been fore-ordained to perform certain important missions. Joseph truly said, "No power can take away my life, until my work is done." All the powers of earth and hell could not take his life, until he had completed the work the Father gave him to do; until that was done, he had to live. When he died he had a mission in the spirit world, as much so as Jesus had... . there is an almighty work to perform in the spirit world,. . . he will be resurrected, but he has not yet done there.... As quick as Joseph finishes his mission in the spirit world, he will be resurrected....
When Jesus was resurrected they found the linen, but the body was not there. When Joseph is resurrected, you may find the linen that enshrouded his body, but you will not find his body in the grave, no more than the disciples found the body of Jesus when they looked where it was lain.11
These remarks of Brigham Young should forever dispel the idea that Joseph Smith was a resurrected being when the Saints crossed the plains. In order to preserve his belief in Lorin Woolley and Daniel Bateman, however, Joseph Musser was forced to brand Brigham Young as a public deceiver because he gave the above-cited discourse negating the rumor of Joseph's resurrection.
John Taylor left this testimony that the Prophet Joseph Smith guided Brigham Young across the plains as a resurrected being. His remains were not brought here in a wagon and buried under the tabernacle. Pres. Young's statement in 1854 (sic), stating that Joseph Smith was not yet resurrected, was apparently given to mislead the people.12
Early Leaders' Testimony
None of the presiding authorities of the Church have ever taught that the Prophet Joseph Smith has been resurrected. Wilford Woodruff stated in 1880 that Joseph Smith was then in the spirit world, but had advanced in station there from others who had since followed him:
I have had many interviews with Brother Joseph until the last 15 or 20 years of my life; I have not seen him for that length of time. But during my travels in the southern country last winter I had many interviews with President Young, and with Heber C. Kimball, and Geo. A. Smith, and Jedediah M. Grant, and many others who are dead. . . . the thought came to me that Brother Joseph had left the work of watching over this church and kingdom to others, and that he had gone ahead, and that he had left this work to men who have lived and labored with us since he left us. This idea manifested itself to me, that such men advance in the spirit world.13
Erastus Snow taught in 1884 that neither Joseph, Hyrum, nor any other member of this dispensation had yet been resurrected--that it was an event then future:
The Prophet Joseph Smith shall come unto us again. He has merely taken another mission in advance of us. He fulfilled the mission given unto him on earth. The Lord was satisfied with his labors here. He lived long enough to endow his brethren with full authority to carry on the work that he had begun on the earth. He took his departure behind the veil. . . . The time is drawing near (much nearer than scarcely any of us can now comprehend) when Joseph will be clothed upon with immortality, when his brother Hyrum will be clothed upon with immortality, when the martyrs will be raised from the dead, together with their faithful brethren who have performed a good mission in the spirit world -- they, too, will be called to assist in the work of the glorious resurrection.14
President Joseph F. Smith taught in 1910 that the Prophet was not then resurrected. He concurs with the doctrine taught on this point by Brigham Young and Erastus Snow, teachings that are cited above.
This gospel revealed to the Prophet Joseph is al ready being preached to the spirits in prison, to those who have passed away from this stage of action into the spirit world without the knowledge of the gospel. Joseph Smith is preaching that gospel to them. So is Hyrum Smith. So is Brigham Young, and so are all the faithful apostles that lived in this dispensation under the administration of the Prophet Joseph. They are there, having carried with them from here the holy Priesthood that they received under authority, and which was conferred upon them in the flesh; they are preaching the gospel to the spirits in prison; for Christ, when his body lay in the tomb, went to proclaim liberty to the captives and opened the prison doors to them that were bound.15
Joseph and Hyrum Exhumed
That Joseph and Hyrum were not resurrected in 1886 may be further borne out by the fact that the Reorganized Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints exhumed their bodies in 1928. Samuel O. Bennion, then President of the East Central States Mission, with three others, upon hearing about the exhumation, drove from In dependence to Nauvoo, and they arrived just after the bodies had been disinterred. He wrote in a report to President Heber J. Grant:
Fred(rick) M. (Smith, President of the Reorganized Church) took me upstairs where they were photographing and taking measurements of the skulls of Joseph and Hyrum. I could hardly keep the tears back when I saw these men handling these skulls like they were just common ordinary skulls and I said to Fred M. Why don't you let the bodies of these men rest where they were, it seemed a terrible thing to disturb their graves. He answered me, by saying that he wanted to find out if the graves of these men were down by what was called the Spring House and rather evasively avoided my question, but told me that he did not know exactly where they were buried and he wanted to find out. It is my impression brethren that he had heard reports that Brigham Young took the bodies of Joseph and Hyrum to Utah and that he wanted to prove it untrue. He did not mention that but in an indirect way he did. I said to him "Didn't your father tell you where these bodies were laid?" And he answered "Yes." I told him his father had told me where they were and that I was convinced that they were there close to the foot of Emma Smith's grave.
The lower jaw of Hyrum Smith is just as near like the pictures of Hyrum as it could be. His jaw was very large and was quite square especially at the chin compared with Joseph's. Joseph's jaw was more pointed, but Hyrum's was a little more square all around than Joseph's. These men must have been big because their lower jaws were extra large and strong.
The bullet that killed Hyrum entered into his face near the lower part of his nose on the right side and broke his upper jaw just above the teeth. The break shows very distinctly where the bullet entered the face, because the bone was broken and the bullet went in an upward direction right under the eye and came out on the other side of his head, just a little above his ear and toward the front.16
If Joseph's and Hyrum's bodies were exhumed in 1928, we may logically assume that they had not previously been resurrected. We may confidently conclude with Brigham Young: "When Joseph is resurrected, you may find the linen that enshrouded his body, but you will not find his body in the grave.". .17
All the evidence points to the fact that the Prophet is still laboring in the spirit world. If Joseph Smith was laboring in the spirit world in 1910, and if his body was exhumed in 1928, he certainly was not a resurrected being in 1886; therefore, he could not possibly have appeared and participated in an ordinance by laying his hands on someone's head, and he could not have shaken hands with Lorin Woolley and Charles Wilcken at the conclusion. This is another facet of the Woolley account that does not ring true and that does not correspond with the facts of history.
1. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 23. Italics added.
2. See D&C 129:4-7, and Documentary History of the Church 3:392, 4:571-8 1.
3. Baird and Baird, Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin C. Woolley, vol. 3, p.25
4. Baird and Baird, Reminiscences of John W. Woolley and Lorin C. Woolley, vol. 3, pp. 26-27.
5. Documentary History of the Church 7:256.
6. Documentary History of the Church 7:473.
7. Joseph F. Smith Letter File, 1904. Church Archives, Salt Lake City; see also First Presidency Decisions, 2:28, Church Archives.
8. Items from the Book of Remembrance of Joseph W. Musser, p. 2.
9. Joseph Musser Journal, April 23, 1930.
10. Joseph Musser Journal, April 6, 1935.
11. Journal of Discourses 4:285-86.
12. Cited in the minutes of a Fundamentalist meeting of June 29, 1952, p. 2. Copy in possession of the author. The above remarks of Brigham Young came as a result of a comment of Heber C. Kimball that President Young feared might be misinterpreted by the Saints, so he spoke to dispel any speculation or false doctrine. President Young logically would have left the subject untouched rather than purposely deceive.
13. Journal of Discourses 21:317-18.
14. Journal of Discourses 25:32-34.
15. Joseph F. Smith, Gospel Doctrine, p. 471.
16. Samuel O. Bennion to Heber J. Grant, January 21, 1928, Church Archives, Salt Lake City.
17. Journal of Discourses 4:286.