I will bless Joseph Smith and multiply him and give unto him
an hundredfold in this world, of fathers
and mothers, brothers and sisters, houses and lands, wives
and children, and crowns of eternal lives in the
if he have ten virgins given unto him by
this law, he cannot commit adultery, for they belong to
him, and they are given unto him; therefore is he justified."
one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused
[to Joseph Smith], shall be with another man, she has committed
adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given
unto Joseph Smith to multiply and replenish the earth,
according to my commandment, and to fulfil the promise which
was given by my Father before the foundation of the world,
and for their exaltation in the eternal worlds, that
they may bear the souls of men; for herein is the
work of my Father continued, that he may be glorified."
- Doctrine and Covenants Section 132:55, 62-63
Many LDS Church
leaders and historians suggest that sexual relations and
the marriage of Joseph Smith and his youngest wife, Helen
Mar Kimball, fourteen at the time, was "approaching
There is no documentation
to support the idea that marriage at fourteen was "approaching
eligibility." Actually, marriages even two years later,
at the age of sixteen, occurred occasionally but infrequently
in Helen Mar's culture. Thus, girls marrying at fourteen,
even fifteen, were very much out of the ordinary. Sixteen
was comparatively rare, but not unheard of. American women
began to marry in their late teens; around different parts
of the United States the average age of marriage varied
from nineteen to twenty-three.
the United States the average age of menarche (first menstruation)
dropped from 16.5 in 1840 to 12.9 in 1950. More recent figures
indicate that it now occurs on average at 12.8 years of
age. The mean age of first marriages in colonial America
was between 19.8 years to 23.7, most women were married
during the age period of peak fecundity (fertility).
age has declined by some 3.7 years from the 1840’s.
sexual maturity of Helen Mar Kimball in today’s average
age of menarche (first menstruation) would put her psychological
age of sexual maturity at the time of the marriage of Joseph
Smith at 9.1 years old. (16.5 years-12.8 years =3.7 years)
(12.8 years-3.7 years=9.1 years)
The fact is Helen
Mar Kimball's sexual development was still far from complete.
Her psychological sexual maturity was not competent for
procreation. The coming of puberty is regarded as the termination
of childhood; in fact the term child is usually defined
as the human being from the time of birth to the on-coming
of puberty. Puberty the point of time at which the sexual
development is completed. In young women, from the date
of the first menstruation to the time at which she has become
fitted for marriage, the average lapse of time is assumed
by researchers to be two years.
Age of eligibility
for women in Joseph Smith’s time-frame would start
at a minimum of 19 ½ years old.
This would suggest
that Joseph Smith had sexual relations and married several
women before the age of eligibility, and some very close
to the age of eligibility including:
- Fanny Alger
- Sarah Ann
- Lucy Walker
- Flora Ann
- Emily Dow
- Sarah Lawrence
- Maria Lawrence
- Helen Mar
- Melissa Lott
- Nancy M.
And then we have
"Joseph was very free in his talk about his women.
He told me one day of a certain girl and
remarked, that she had given him more pleasure than any
girl he had ever enjoyed. I told him it was horrible
to talk like this."
- Joseph Smith's close confidant and LDS Church First
Councilor, William Law, Interview in Salt Lake Tribune,
July 31, 1887
When Heber C.
Kimball asked Sister Eliza R. Snow the question if she was
not a virgin although married to Joseph Smith, she replied,
"I thought you knew Joseph Smith better than
- Stake President Angus M. Cannon, statement of interview
with Joseph III, 23, LDS archives.
Short Bios of
Did Smith have
sex with his wives?:
average age of menarche might have been in the mid 19th-century,
the average age of marriage was around 20 for women and
22 for men. And a gap of 15 to 20 years or more between
partners was very unusual, not typical. Whatever biology
might have to say, according to the morals of his time,
several of Joseph Smith's wives were still inappropriately
young for him.
a pure myth that 19th-century American girls married at
For example, Laura Ingalls Wilder, from Little House on
the Prairie fame, was born in 1867, which puts her later
than Joseph Smith but still in the 1800s. She tells of hearing
of the marriage of a 13-year-old girl, and being shocked.
She also notes that the girl's mother 'takes in laundry,'
and is sloppy and unkempt--implying that "nice"
people don't marry off their teenaged daughters. Laura,
herself, became engaged at 17--but her parents asked her
to wait until she was 18 to marry.
You merely need
to go to your local courthouse and ask to see the old 19th
century marriage books. Take a look at and pay attention
to the age at marriage. Sure a very few did, but it was
far from the norm. The vast majority of women married after
the age of twenty.
In fact, look
up the marriage ages in the Smith family before polygamy.
You'll find that one of the Smith girls was 19. The rest
of them, and their sisters-in-law, were in their early 20s
when they married. The Smith boys' first wives were in their
20s. The same pattern was true for the various branches
of my family and the rest of American society at the time.
On the extremely
rare occasions women younger than 17 married, it was to
men close to their same age, not 15 to 20 years older.
The case is even
true in pioneer Utah among first marriages. Mormon men in
their twenties started out marrying someone their own age.
Then later these older men married girls under twenty to
be their plural wives. But the first wives were the age
of the husband and married over the age of twenty. This
is still the case is the rural Utah polygamist communities.
Coale and Zelnik
assume a mean age of marriage for white women of 20 (1963:
37). Sanderson's assumptions are consistent with a mean
of 19.8 years (Sanderson 1979: 343). The Massachusetts family
reconstitutions revealed somewhat higher mean ages. For
Hingham, Smith reports an age at first marriage of 23.7
at the end of the eighteenth century (1972: Table 3, p.
177). For Sturbridge, the age for a comparable group was
22.46 years (Osterud and Fulton 1976: Table 2, p. 484),
and in Franklin County it was 23.3 years (Temkin-Greener,
H., and A.C. Swedlund. 1978. Fertility Transition in the
Connecticut Valley:1740-1850. Population Studies 32 (March
1978):27-41.: Table 6, p. 34).
The Reshaping of Everyday Life, 1790-1840 (New York: Harper
& Row, 1988), 63; Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, Good Wives:
Image and Reality in the Lives of Women in Northern New
England, 1650-1750 (NY: Oxford University Press, 1980),
6; Nancy F. Cott, "Young Women in the Second Great
Awakening in New England," Feminist Studies 3 (1975):
16. Larkin writes,
Dr. Dorothy V.
Whipple, Dynamics of Development: Euthenic Pediatrics (New
York: McGraw-Hill, 1966)
on Mormon Polygamy
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