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How Many Wives Did Joseph Smith Have From the Start to End of Polygamy?

Joseph Smith did not record any information about his plural marriages. Most of the information about Smith’s polygamous marriages comes from his close friends and the women he married. In order to find all of Smith’s marriages, historians have had to comb through the journals, letters, and other records of the people who knew Smith. The sources show that Smith married between thirty and forty women. About 10 of Joseph Smith’s Wives were already married. 

The revelation that Smith received about plural marriage wasn’t written until 1843. However, the evidence shows that Smith likely received the revelation about plural marriage in 1831 when he was working on the inspired translation (JST) version of the Bible. Historians believe that Smith’s first plural marriage was to a woman named Fanny Alger in the mid-1830s. Joseph Smith and Fanny Alger and Smith were probably married in Kirtland, Ohio. However, the historical record does not document the exact date of their marriage. The marriage ended and Alger moved away from Ohio with her family. She married another man, Solomon Custer.

Smith did not marry anyone else for many years. Multiple records show that Smith was visited by an angel various times during this period. The angel told him to fulfill the command to practice plural marriage. During a third and final visit, the angel came bearing a sword, promising eternal destruction if Smith did not begin practicing plural marriage. The rest of Smith’s marriages took place after he and the majority of the church’s membership moved to Nauvoo, Illinois in the 1840s.

  • References
    1. “Fanny Alger Custer,” Joseph Smith Papers, accessed May 2, 2024, https://www.josephsmithpapers.org/person/fanny-alger-custer.
    2. Brian C. Hales, “Encouraging Joseph Smith to Practice Plural Marriage: The Accounts of the Angel with a Drawn Sword,” Mormon Historical Studies 11, no. 2 (Fall 2010): 69–70.