30-40 wives and no offspring?

Discussions toward a better understanding of LDS doctrine, history, and culture. Discussion of Christianity, religion, and faith in general is welcome.
Post Reply
User avatar
Hagoth
Posts: 3172
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2016 1:13 pm

30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by Hagoth » Mon Feb 04, 2019 1:24 pm

There seems to be a lot of discussion about this on NOM right now, so I wanted to pose this question.

The absence of children from Joseph's marriages used to be the argument against the idea that Joseph was a polygamist. Now that the church has swallowed that pill it seems to me to be the best argument that there was no sex. Some possibilities for why there are no known children from Joseph's marriages are:

1- No sex
2- Birth control (e.g. lamb intestine condoms were in use at the time)
3- Biological problems (Joseph and Emma had a lot of stillbirths and miscarriages - defective sperm?)
4- Abortion (enter John C. Bennett)
5- They exist but haven't been identified
6- Not all sex acts lead to pregnancy (I will leave it up to your imagination)
7- Other?

Number 1 really is the best and most parsimonious answer. The problems with it are 1) some of Joseph's wives later testified that they did have "carnal intercourse" with him, 2) the official essay leaves it open as a possibility, 3) Joseph's contemporary associates, who were following his lead with his approval, definitely had sex with polygamous and polyandrous wives and bore offspring.

What do you think?
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

User avatar
jfro18
Posts: 1107
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:41 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by jfro18 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:10 pm

There was an article by a believer (i want to say Hales but Im not sure) that said Joseph almost certainly had two kids from other women than Emma... one died early and I can't remember the other.

We know he had sex - the journals at the time and testimony of these women are undeniable and the church is coming around to that.

I just don't know why he didn't have other kids. I don't believe he was with these women frequently as he was constantly on the run and had so many women, so it's possible he timed it out, used condoms, or went with methods that would not lead to pregnancies.

Of course if he did use condoms, that begs the question of why he wasn't trying for kids given that's the main purpose of the revelation in the first place... but who am I kidding?
Last edited by jfro18 on Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:20 pm, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
græy
Posts: 419
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:52 pm
Location: Central TX

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by græy » Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:12 pm

Joseph was a busy guy. Between running the church, leading an army, selling properties the church had "bought" for him, marrying 34 women, and still being a husband to his real wife, he probably didn't have much time to spend with any one of his plural wives. Especially if he wanted to keep them hidden from Emma and each other.

Given time constraints, general stress, possibly number 3, and good old number 6, I'd say there are reasonable explanations for no known live births from his... exploits.

His contemporaries did have children with plural wives, but they were still few and far between. The secrecy thing really put a damper on the ability to conceive. It seems like the polygamous birthrate really shot up after it was publicly revealed, but even then, it was lower per wife than monogamous marriages.
I'm better than dirt... well most dirt. Not that fancy store bought stuff, I can't compete with that... full of nutrients and everything. -Moe Sizlack

User avatar
deacon blues
Posts: 1084
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2016 7:37 am

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by deacon blues » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:13 pm

Maybe Joseph "spilled his seed on the ground" like Onan. Exodus 38:9.

https://biblehub.com/genesis/38-9.htm
God is Love. God is Truth

User avatar
slavereeno
Posts: 1072
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:30 am
Location: QC, AZ

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by slavereeno » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:25 pm

græy wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:12 pm
Given time constraints, general stress, possibly number 3, and good old number 6, I'd say there are reasonable explanations for no known live births from his... exploits.
This is a very probable explanation. Anybody remember that line from the sleazy dude in the move "Hitch"? There is a guy that is trying to pay Hitch to set him up with an acquaintance, so that he can "Get in, get off and get out." He explains to Hitch that he just needs to do the do with the woman to get her out of his mind, and then he wanted nothing to do with her. (for which Hitch beat the hell out of him)

It seems like this is a thing, some people wan to have sex with another person then have nothing more to do with them. Hence the term "one night stand" Could this be the M.O.? Its plausible that most of the "wives" only ever had one or maybe two encounters, that along with a demonstrated desire to keep things secret on Joseph's part. Due to the secrecy, number 5 is also plausible, the offspring were adopted out or cared for by a cuckolded father.

User avatar
wtfluff
Posts: 2135
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2016 3:20 pm
Location: Worshiping Gravity / Pulling Taffy

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by wtfluff » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:29 pm

Like I've mentioned in other threads: Religious people get "married" so they have their god's permission to have sex. I see no reason to believe otherwise when it comes to Joseph and his "wives."

Occam's Razor and all that jazz.

That's my current confirmation bias, and I'm sticking to it!
Faith does not give you the answers, it just stops you asking the questions. -Frater Ravus

Keep the company of those who seek the truth - run from those who have found it -Václav Havel

Brilliant.

User avatar
RubinHighlander
Posts: 1385
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2016 7:20 am
Location: Behind the Zion Curtain

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by RubinHighlander » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:34 pm

deacon blues wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:13 pm
Maybe Joseph "spilled his seed on the ground" like Onan. Exodus 38:9.

https://biblehub.com/genesis/38-9.htm
I'm seriously going with this one. JS had to keep most of those relationships under wraps, so unwanted pregnancies would just create a firestorm for him.
“Sir,' I said to the universe, 'I exist.' 'That,' said the universe, 'creates no sense of obligation in me whatsoever.”
--Douglas Adams

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YzmYP3PbfXE

User avatar
blazerb
Posts: 486
Joined: Thu Mar 30, 2017 4:35 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by blazerb » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:36 pm

Yes, not all sex acts lead to pregnancy. Also, a woman does not get pregnant every time she has "normal" sex. It's actually relatively rare, less than 10% of the time I believe. If people weren't have a lot of sex, we would not see many kids around. I think the best explanation is infrequent sex and the birth control that was available.

JS absolutely did have sex with women other than Emma. Women testified under oath as clearly as they could that they had sex with him.

User avatar
MerrieMiss
Posts: 552
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2016 9:03 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by MerrieMiss » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:46 pm

Years ago I did a lot of reading about the Oneida Community. Religion and Sexuality by Lawrence Foster was an interesting read, focusing on the Shakers, Oneida Community, and Mormons.

From Wikipedia on the use of birth control in the Oneida Community:
To control reproduction within the Oneida community, a system of male continence or coitus reservatus was enacted.[13] Noyes decided that sexual intercourse served two distinct purposes. The primary purpose was social satisfaction, "to allow the sexes to communicate and express affection for one another".[14] The second purpose was procreation. Of around two hundred adults using male continence as birth control, there were twelve unplanned births within Oneida between 1848 and 1868.[14] Young men were introduced to male continence by women who were post-menopause, and young women were introduced by experienced, older males.[15]:18
From NYhistory.com:
Another teaching practiced at the Oneida Community was that of "Male Continence," which was a type of birth control. In the practice of Male Continence, "a couple would engage in sexual congress without the man ever ejaculating, either during intercourse or after withdrawal." Noyes justified this practice because his wife Harriet in the first six years of their marriage had five difficult childbirths, four of which were premature and resulted in the deaths of the children. Noyes came to the conclusion that where an unwanted pregnancy occurred, there was a waste of the man's seed and that it was no different in practice to masturbation. With the implementation of Male Continence, which lasted from 1848 to 1868, some forty children were born in the community of about two hundred and fifty people.

Another teaching practiced along these same lines was that of "Ascending Fellowship." Ascending Fellowship was set up to properly introduce the virgins into Complex Marriage. This practice also worked to prevent the young members from falling in love with each other and from limiting their range of affection to just the younger members. The main people picked to care for the virgins were people who were considered to be closer to God. These people were of course older and had a special title which was that of Central Member. These Central Members were allowed their pick of a partner over which they would have the responsibility of spiritual guidance. It usually worked that the male Central Member would pick any female virgin of his choice. Due to her lower order, she was compelled to accept. In the case of the female Central Member, they were usually past the age of menopause, and when they chose their male virgin, they were obligated to honor the request. The reason women past menopause were chosen was so that as they taught the younger men Male Continence, they would not have to worry about unwanted pregnancies.
Another interesting read is The Alcotts by Madelon Bedell. It is unfortunate she died before completing Volume II. While not about any religion specifically, it details the lives of the Alcotts and explores 19th century ideas, philosophy, communal experiments, and etc. along the way. She notes:
Several methods of crude but effective birth control were in use then, especially among the middle and upper classes, including the condom, the pessary, and the rhythm method. Since Dr. William Alcott, Bronson's cousin, was among those advocating birth control, it is reasonable to assume that the Alcotts employed some of these techniques.
It's ridiculous to assume that in the past people were ignorant regarding various means to prevent pregnancy. The biggest question is why Joseph seemed to lack progeny and others who practiced plural marriage did not. The only thing I can come up with is that plural marriage was something he made up to cover his own infidelities and various birth control methods were necessary to hide it from those who were not in the inner circle - you couldn't have apparently "single" women getting pregnant. Also Emma - there's always the plausible deniability Joseph could employ with Emma the same as TBMs and apologists use today: There aren't any children, so the marriages were in name only. (Although this makes one wonder about the situation with the Laws.) My guess is that had Joseph lived longer, children probably would have resulted.

User avatar
slavereeno
Posts: 1072
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:30 am
Location: QC, AZ

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by slavereeno » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:55 pm

MerrieMiss wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:46 pm
My guess is that had Joseph lived longer, children probably would have resulted.
Nicely done MM, some good research to back up your thoughts.

User avatar
Red Ryder
Posts: 2206
Joined: Sun Oct 16, 2016 5:14 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by Red Ryder » Mon Feb 04, 2019 3:57 pm

Emma finds out Joseph was sleeping with the entire Relief Society. She begins tainting the Relief Society women's coffee and tea with the 1830's version of Plan B!

Joseph caught wind, banned coffee and tea via the WoW revelation.

A few weeks later Joseph was kicked in the man berries while getting tarred and feathered which permanently disabled his future baby making capabilities.

That's about a good a guess as any apologetics I've read. :lol:
Those who do not move do not notice their chains. —Rosa Luxemburg

User avatar
alas
Posts: 1187
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2016 2:10 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by alas » Mon Feb 04, 2019 4:44 pm

Fanny Algiers was rumored to be pregnant when Emma kicked her out. I can’t remember the wording but something about her condition being visible, so she was just starting to show and perhaps Emma wondered if she might be pregnant so warched her more closely, which led to her catching her with Joseph in the barn. Those same rumors say she miscarried.

With the number of miscarriages Emma had, I suspect Joseph had some genetic defect that led to frequent miscarriages.

With later “wives,” Joseph had wised up and realized that getting his sexual conquests pregnant was going to get him caught, ....again, so he was more careful. I suspect he used some form of birth control plus abortion if accidents happened. Sarah Pratt accused Bennet of doing abortions for Joseph.

Abortion was not thought of then like it is now as being right next to murder. A pregnancy was just a pregnancy and not considered a human being. A baby was not “human” until it drew breath. Our knowledge of human development has made a huge difference in the attitude toward abortion. Even infanticide was practiced with no moral outrage back in those days. If a baby was born with defects that would make it too resource expensive to raise and take care of, the newborn was taken into the mountains and left to die and everyone was told the baby was stillborn. No one asked about it, because it was totally the father’s decision if he wanted the child or not. I know of three cases of this among early Utah settlers. They simply could not care for a child that needed 24/7 care and would never grow up to be a contributing member of society. They didn’t have that luxury, so infanticide was employed.

User avatar
Not Buying It
Posts: 932
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2016 12:29 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by Not Buying It » Mon Feb 04, 2019 8:54 pm

The “no children” argument is nothing but a red herring for four reasons:

1 - In the Temple Lot Case some of Joseph’s “wives” testified they had sex with him under oath at the request of the Church. It’s possible they were told to lie, but not likely. Pretty much a slam dunk.

2 - Even if sex wasn’t involved - which it absolutely was in at least some cases - these relationships were still damaging and inappropriate, not to mention in some cases taking a woman away from a faithful husband in the eternities. Think of young girls unable to pursue relationships with young men, Helen Mar Kimball hated that, what a horrible thing to do to a young woman.

3 - There’s no question Brigham Young had sex with his wives, so we can verify there was a Church President who was doing things just as bad as what Joseph was accused of. The Church still looks pretty bad.

4 - If apologists really think these girls and women were “wives” and everything was on the up and up, why are they so damn intent on trying to argue there was no sex? If everything was all hunky dory, there’s nothing wrong with a man having sex with a consenting wife. The fact they have to try and defend it tells you on some level they know it wasn’t OK.

It’s a disgusting business any way you slice it.
Last edited by Not Buying It on Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
"The truth is elegantly simple. The lie needs complex apologia. 4 simple words: Joe made it up. It answers everything with the perfect simplicity of Occam's Razor. Every convoluted excuse withers." - Some guy on Reddit called disposazelph

User avatar
jfro18
Posts: 1107
Joined: Mon Apr 23, 2018 8:41 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by jfro18 » Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:20 pm

Polygamy is the onion that the church works so hard to make sure you don't peel. Every time you think you've answered one problem with it, you uncover 3 more.

Did Joseph Smith have sex with his wives? Absolutely- the women themselves state so.

Did Emma know that Joseph Smith was sexing up his wives? Not until he was married to over 20 women.

Well maybe Joseph Smith did it just to create dynastic relationships? Maybe, but then why did he marry multiple women from the same family?

But Joseph was just taking care of the widows? Nope, Joseph was really taking care of the teens... especially those that lived with him.

Joseph was just marrying women who had husbands that would not accept the gospel? Not only is that not true, he was marrying the wives of faithful members and taking those women with him for eternity.

I mean you can go on and on and it's all addressed here... and while why Joseph didn't appear to have kids (although I know there is good documentation for two) is a big unknown, the rest of it paints a pretty clear picture.

ETA: I need to look more later, but this I think was part of what i found before about Joseph having kids through polygamy: “There is at minimum one child who came from Joseph Smith’s polygamy: Josephine Lyon Fisher. (This stills awaits DNA confirmation, but the published historical evidence for it is good, and I know of a great deal that is unpublished.) And I believe, with reason, that there were a couple others.” (Don Bradley [Mormon scholar], July 2010, MADB)

User avatar
Hagoth
Posts: 3172
Joined: Fri Oct 14, 2016 1:13 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by Hagoth » Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:11 pm

jfro18 wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 9:20 pm
ETA: I need to look more later, but this I think was part of what i found before about Joseph having kids through polygamy: “There is at minimum one child who came from Joseph Smith’s polygamy: Josephine Lyon Fisher. (This stills awaits DNA confirmation, but the published historical evidence for it is good, and I know of a great deal that is unpublished.) And I believe, with reason, that there were a couple others.” (Don Bradley [Mormon scholar], July 2010, MADB)
The DNA work has been done. She wasn't Joseph's daughter. My source is a personal conversation with Scott Rowley of Infants on Thrones who ran the Mormon Genome Project but quit when the Lyons family had their own work done (I think by Ugo Perego, but I'm not sure).
“The easy confidence with which I know another man's religion is folly teaches me to suspect that my own is also.” -Mark Twain

Jesus: "The Kingdom of God is within you." The Buddha: "Be your own light."

User avatar
crossmyheart
Posts: 336
Joined: Mon Apr 24, 2017 6:02 am
Location: Where the wind comes sweeping down the plain

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by crossmyheart » Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:54 pm

græy wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:12 pm
Joseph was a busy guy. Between running the church, leading an army, selling properties the church had "bought" for him, marrying 34 women, and still being a husband to his real wife, he probably didn't have much time to spend with any one of his plural wives. Especially if he wanted to keep them hidden from Emma and each other.
I totally read that part in the voice of Prince Humperdinck

User avatar
slavereeno
Posts: 1072
Joined: Tue Sep 19, 2017 8:30 am
Location: QC, AZ

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by slavereeno » Tue Feb 05, 2019 1:14 pm

crossmyheart wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:54 pm
græy wrote:
Mon Feb 04, 2019 2:12 pm
Joseph was a busy guy. Between running the church, leading an army, selling properties the church had "bought" for him, marrying 34 women, and still being a husband to his real wife, he probably didn't have much time to spend with any one of his plural wives. Especially if he wanted to keep them hidden from Emma and each other.
I totally read that part in the voice of Prince Humperdinck
:lol:

User avatar
græy
Posts: 419
Joined: Tue Nov 29, 2016 2:52 pm
Location: Central TX

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by græy » Tue Feb 05, 2019 2:04 pm

crossmyheart wrote:
Tue Feb 05, 2019 12:54 pm
I totally read that part in the voice of Prince Humperdinck
Ha! Now I'll never be able to read it in my own voice. :D
I'm better than dirt... well most dirt. Not that fancy store bought stuff, I can't compete with that... full of nutrients and everything. -Moe Sizlack

User avatar
redjay
Posts: 403
Joined: Sat Mar 11, 2017 12:20 pm

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by redjay » Tue Feb 05, 2019 4:49 pm

A) Shooting blanks
B) Didn't do the dirty

If (A) is having carnal - fails my righteous prophet test

(B) Brigham Young said he did - making BY a self-serving liar - QED BY fails my righteous prophet test


Therefore either JS or BY fail my righteous prophet test: LDS church is led by men who fail my righteous prophet test.
At the halfway home. I'm a full-grown man. But I'm not afraid to cry.

User avatar
moksha
Posts: 2491
Joined: Tue Oct 18, 2016 4:22 am

Re: 30-40 wives and no offspring?

Post by moksha » Wed Feb 06, 2019 12:10 am

My guess is that the Oneida Community practices of coitus reservatus and coitus interruptus were used by early LDS polygamists.
Good faith does not require evidence, but it also does not turn a blind eye to that evidence. Otherwise, it becomes misplaced faith.
-- Moksha

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests