The Salt Lake Tribune published an interesting article by Peggy Fletcher Stack that compares LDS founder (and polygamist) Joseph Smith with FLDS leader (and polygamist) Warren Jeffs and questions why the LDS population generally reveres the one and is horrified by the other.
So what are the differences between the two that make one a religious “genius,” as literary critic Harold Bloom described Smith, and the other a sexual predator and felon?
And this in the sidebar:
Joseph’s young wives
Author Todd Compton’s list of 33 plural wives of Joseph Smith includes 10 women under age 20.
Helen Mar Kimball, 14 Nancy M. Winchester, 14 Flora Ann Woodworth, 16 Sarah Ann Whitney, 17 Sarah Lawrence, 17 Lucy Walker, 17 Fanny Alger, 16-19 Emily Dow Partridge, 19 Maria Lawrence, 19 Melissa Lott, 19
The main “proof” cited by interviewed LDS members that his other marriages were “spiritual” (as opposed to sexual) seems to be that there were no reported Smith progeny outside of his and (legal wife) Emma’s eight children, so he must have never slept with any of them.
And then this:
Smith proffered a promise of salvation and even told 14-year-old Helen Mar Kimball that it would extend to her entire family if she complied.
Smith “skillfully used a wide range of pressure tactics to try to convince women to become his plural wives,” Foster says, “including threatening them with perdition if they wouldn’t go along with him.”
“The gate [to salvation] will be forever closed against you,” Foster says Smith told one woman if she refused him.
Nancy Rigdon, daughter of Smith’s counselor Sidney Rigdon, was furious at the Mormon prophet’s proposal to her, Compton says.
Hales argues that most of the women Smith approached were free to reject him — and some did. None, Hales says, even the seven who abandoned their LDS faith, ever spoke ill of him or their relationship.
“Decades after their feelings had matured and their youthful perspectives expanded by additional experiences with marriage and sexual relations, none of them claimed they were victimized or beguiled by the prophet,” Hales says. “None came forth to write an exposé to tell the world he was a seducing imposter. None wrote that Joseph Smith’s polygamy was a sham or a cover-up for illicit sexual relations.”
Yep — Joseph Smith — fine, upstanding citizen and exemplar. Didn’t get caught. Until he did.