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Was Joseph Smith a pedophile?

Todd Noall

Todd Noall

Source Expert

Todd Noall is an author and religious scholar at Mormonism Explained with a focus on the history and theology of religion.

Fact Checked by Kevin Prince

Kevin Prince

Source Expert

Kevin Prince serves as the Source Authority at Mormonism Explained. Mr. Prince is a religious scholar as well as a technology industry CEO and entrepreneur.

Updated July 3, 2024

Did Joseph Smith introduce polygamy to prey on underage girls? No, Joseph Smith was reluctant to practice polygamy. The historical record confirms this in various accounts. These accounts say that an angel came to Joseph at least three times from 1834 to 1842 and told Smith to practice polygamy. One account shares that on the third appearance of the angel, the angel was holding a sword and told Smith that if he refused or delayed practicing polygamy any longer, the consequence would be his eternal destruction. These accounts confirm that Smith was wary of the practice of polygamy, or that Joseph Smith fought polygamy

In the mid-1830s Smith married his first plural wife, Fanny Alger. After this marriage, Smith waited five years before marrying another plural wife. Richard L. Bushman, a scholar of Joseph Smith, speculated on some of the reasons for Smith’s reluctance to practice plural marriage. “The delay [in marrying again] showed an uncharacteristic reluctance, hard for one who feared God…Joseph never wrote his personal feelings about plural marriage… Everything on the subject comes from the people around him. But surely he realized that plural marriage…ran the risk of wrecking his marriage [to Emma] and alienating his followers.”

  • References
    1. 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.
    2. Richard L. Bushman, Joseph Smith: Rough Stone Rolling (New York, NY: Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), 437–438.