By all accounts, Joseph Smith was charismatic. He was an uncommonly handsome man, six feet tall with dark hair and blue eyes. He charmed the ladies and he was a public speaker without equal: he possessed all the characteristics necessary for a top-notch religious leader.
From a malaria-ridden swamp to a bustling city, Joseph Smith and the Mormons created Nauvoo, Illinois, in a few, short years. Out of nothing Nauvoo was created, to what would become a thriving Mormon community. But they had paid their price in the deaths of many, due to malaria and cholera.
By 1844, some 15,000 Mormons lived in Nauvoo, second in size only to Chicago. Nauvoo, unlike Chicago, though, was a theocracy, with Joseph Smith as its leader. Its geographical landscape – that of a swamp, virtually ensured the Mormons would be free of persecution, as few travelers could safely pass through the wet, swampy, diseased land surrounding Nauvoo.
Not content to rule over just Nauvoo, Joseph Smith announced his candidacy for the President of the United States in 1844. It has been speculated that Smith wanted to ensure religious freedom for the Mormons, and that by running for President, he would be able to grant that freedom to the Mormons. Legislatures and elected leaders either had been loathe to protect the Mormons or they had been unable to protect them from the persecution they suffered.
No one seriously expected Joseph Smith to win a presidential election. But it was his impressive personality that enabled the Mormon faith to prosper so rapidly.
Fawn Brodie, Joseph's Smith's biographer, in "No Man Knows My History", is quoted in Krakauer's book:
"They built for him, they preached for him, they carried out unbelievable sacrifices for him, not only because they were convinced he was God's prophet, but because they loved him as a man….They retold tales of his generosity and tenderness…He was a genial host, warmhearted and friendly to all comers, and fiercely loyal to his friends."
By the mid-1840s, Joseph Smith had received 133 divine commandments, instances in which God had spoken directly to Smith, revealing Himself to Smith, in words that Smith would dictate to a scribe, as the "Doctrine & Covenants." Of these Doctrines & Covenants, none was more important or more controversial than D & C Section 132, that of "celestial marriage," or polygamy.
Between 1840 and 1844, God instructed Joseph Smith to marry some 40 women, many of whom were in their early teens.
Though it is believed Joseph Smith had married a second time in 1833, it was not until 1843 that Smith married two additional women. Helen Mar Kimball was 14 when Joseph Smith told her he'd chosen her as his wife and that she would have 24 hours to consider the proposition. He added that the salvation of her family depended on her acceptance of his marriage proposal.
Lucy Walker was similarly forced under duress to marry Joseph Smith. Krakauer states that Joseph Smith had told her that if she did not accept, that she would be eternally damned. Krakauer quotes Lucy:
"This aroused every drop of scotch in my veins. For a few moments I stood fearless before him and looked him in the eye. I felt at this moment that I was called to place myself upon the altar a living sacrifice…this was too much, the thought was unbearable."
Lucy told Joseph Smith that unless she personally received a revelation from God that she should marry Smith, she wouldn't do it. Smith replied that indeed she would receive such a revelation.
Krakauer quotes from Lucy's memoirs:
"It was near dawn after another sleepless night when my room was lighted up by a heavenly influence. To me it was, in comparison, like the brilliant sun bursting through the darkest cloud.
"My soul was filled with a calm, sweet peace that I never knew. Supreme happiness took possession of me, and I received a powerful and irresistible testimony of the truth of plural marriage.
"Which has been like an anchor to the soul through all the trials of life. I felt that I must go out into the morning air and gave vent to the Joy and gratitude that filled my soul.
"As I descended the stairs, President Smith opened the door below; took me by the hand and said: "Thank God, you have the testimony. I too, have prayed." He led me to a chair, placed his hands upon my head and blessed me with every blessing my heart could possibly desire."
Lucy Walker married Joseph Smith on May 1, 1843, the day after her 17<sup>th</sup> birthday.
Joseph Smith realized that his flock and the public at large were not ready for celestial marriage. During this time, Smith publicly decried the practice of polygamy and repeatedly denied he had engaged in it at all.
According to Krakauer, Smith had also confided his practice of polygamy to his closest advisors, some of whom also practiced polygamy. Not least to notice was Emma Smith, who was enraged by the practice. Seeking to silence her objections once and for all, Joseph Smith enlisted the help of his brother to write a revelation concerning spiritual wifery, or polygamy, that would set Emma Smith straight on Smith's expectations for her.
At one time, Emma Smith threatened to take plural husbands if Joseph did not cease taking wives.
Smith's brother Hyrum entreated Joseph to write the revelation sanctioning plural marriage so that he could read it to Emma Smith, to show her that the word of God had commanded it to be so, so that she would stop complaining to Joseph.
Some passages of D & C section 132 mention Emma Smith by name. Krakauer quotes from the doctrine. In this section, God is warning Emma:
"And I command my handmaid, Emma Smith, to abide and cleave unto my servant, Joseph, and to none else. But if she will not abide this commandment, she shall be destroyed, saith the Lord; for I am the Lord they God, and will destroy her if she abide not in my law."
The revelation from God in D&C section 132 continues. Krakauer quotes:
"If any man espouse a virgin, and desire to espouse another…then he is justified; he cannot commit adultery, for they are given unto him…
"But if one or either of the ten virgins, after she is espoused, shall be with another man, she has committed adultery, and shall be destroyed; for they are given unto him to multiply and replenish the earth, according to my commandment."
Hyrum read this to Emma Smith. Her reaction was not at all what he'd expected. She was extremely upset and gave him the most 'severe talking to' of his life. She said that she did not believe a word of this and refused to accept its pronouncement.
Emma's unwillingness to comply with Joseph's commandment did not change his mind regarding the taking of additional wives; Smith decided he would no longer seek her consent for the plural marriages.
Next: The History of the Mormon Church: Part 4 – The Death of Joseph Smith and the Rise of Brigham Young – More Polygamy
Sources: Wikipedia and Jon Krakauer, "Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith."