Joseph Smith Polygamy: Introduction to Joseph Smith’s Revelations

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

Joseph Smith’s Prophetic Insights on the Second Coming, the Celestial Kingdom, and Celestial Marriage

The following will include insights from Doctrine and Covenants sections 129 through 132. In these sections, there are some difficult, hard things, including topics such as Joseph Smith Polygamy. But we believe that thoughtful, faithful engagement with the scriptures, history, and the Word of God, can help all of us.

Overview of Doctrine and Covenants Sections 129-131

The majority of this blog will cover the history of plural marriage in Nauvoo. But before we get there let me bridge the gap and very quickly cover sections 129 and 130 to then set the stage for 131, which is related to section 132. So you’ll notice that in sections 129 through 131, if you look in the heading, in every case, it says “instructions” given. So it’s not as if you’ve got a group of people in a conference or a meeting or a quorum presidency meeting asking for directions. In these three, sections 129, 130, and 131, it’s almost as if Joseph is saying, I kind of recognize we’re getting towards the end and I’m not sure that they understand that. The members of the church understand this clearly and this and this. So what you’re going to find as we come through here is it feels kind of disconnected. It feels like, “Here’s this, and then this. Oh, and here’s this, and here’s this.” And he doesn’t spend a lot of time transitioning. There’s no common thread here. It’s just instructions. 

So, for instance, in section 129, he recognizes “I don’t know if they understand the keys to discern the spirits”. And so in section 129, he says “There are two kinds of beings in heaven. They’re resurrected beings, and then there are the spirits of just men made perfect.” And when they come to deliver a message as an angelic ministrant, if you offer to shake their hand, you can discern them because you’ll either feel a resurrected hand or a spirit of a just man made perfect won’t seek to shake your hand. They’ll just say, I can’t. But a devil, he said, “Will try, and you won’t feel anything.” And so he gives the church those keys. 

Then in section 130, he was in Ramos, Illinois, and he had heard Orson Hyde give a speech at a conference there in Ramos and at lunch had sat down with him. And said, “I have some corrections or I have some feedback for you that would help you.” And Orson was very open to that, asked for it. And so Joseph gives him some of those corrections. And many of the verses in section 130 are part of Joseph giving those instructions. 

So you get a variety of things, a potpourri of things, including verse nine, where he says “This earth, in its sanctified, an immortal state, will be made like unto crystal and will be a Urim and Thummin.” If you have any questions related to any of the kingdoms, you can just look and get the answer. It’s an amazing application of what you read in the Revelation of St. John in the New Testament. 

Joseph Smith’s Devine Guidance

In verses 12 and 13, you get this repeat of his prophecy of the Civil War beginning in South Carolina that hearkens back to what would later be put in as section 87 in our Doctrine of Covenants. And then, the interesting topic of the Second Coming he introduces in 14 and 15 because keep in mind, William Miller has a pretty big following and they have marked a date on the calendar of when Jesus is coming and everybody’s wondering and thinking about it. So Joseph asks the question. This is an example of Joseph Smith turning to God for answers. We see that he did a similar thing to other subjects including Joseph Smith polygamy.

Here is an example of Joseph asking, verse 14: “I was once praying very earnestly to know the time of the coming of the Son of man when I heard a voice repeat the following.” Now, if you want ambiguity here’s verse 15: “Joseph, my son, if thou livest until thou art 85 years old.” So the very foundation of the verse, “if” the premise isn’t going to happen. But he continues, “Thou shalt see the face of the Son of man. Therefore let this suffice and trouble me no more on this matter.” If I didn’t know any better, I would think the Lord didn’t want us overly focused on the date. Notice Joseph’s conclusion “I was left thus without being able to decide whether this coming referred to the beginning of the millennium or to some previous appearing or whether I should die and then see his face.” He gives you three options there and he had no idea which was which. Isn’t that interesting? 

Sometimes we want the prophet to know everything. We want the prophet to be perfect. And this is a classic example of saying there are lots of things where the prophet says, “I asked, I got an answer and I don’t even know what the answer means. Here are some options.” And there’s something powerful about that, something powerful about being open and vulnerable to allow God to reveal things at the time and in the manner that he sees fit to reveal them and say, okay, well, this is what I got, this is what I’m going to go with, and I move forward anyway. And then you get these powerful closures in section 130 talking about intelligence and gaining that intelligence and having an advantage in the world to come, depending on how we use our agency here. And then in verses 20 and 21, the law that is irrevocably decreed, and if we get a blessing, it’s by obedience to the law, we can’t make up our own consequences. 

Joseph Smith’s Insights Regarding the Celestial Kingdom 

Section 131 is where Joseph reveals this additional insight regarding the celestial kingdom in addition to insights on marriage – all which later tie into the concept of Joseph Smith polygamy. Because keep in mind, section 76, we got the idea that was quite earth-shattering for many of the members of the Church when section 76 was given, called the vision back in the John Johnson home where you have celestial, terrestrial, and telestial, and that was mind-blowing. 

Well, what does he do in section 131?

He gives us even more information about what it takes to get into that top tier of the celestial kingdom he talks about in verse two. “In order to obtain the highest, a man and a woman must enter into this order of the priesthood [meaning the new and everlasting covenant of marriage].” So I think that’s really interesting. And I think if we think about it, back in 1841 when Joseph performed the marriage of Benjamin and Melissa Johnson, he promised them that they would receive marriage according to the law of the Lord. And so two years later, we’re getting that law. And I just wanted to share I love this about Joseph: he really asks questions, as you mentioned, but then he figures things out as time goes on. And it’s a development, it’s a trajectory. And so I wanted to share some interesting things about his views of marriage. When he performed the marriage of Newell Knight and Lydia Goldswaite on November 24, 1835. He told them to covenant to be each other’s companions throughout life and then promised upon them the blessings that the Lord conferred upon Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, that is, to multiply and replenish the earth with the addition of long life and prosperity.

Then a week later, Joseph officiated at the marriage of Warren Parrish and Martha Raymond and he pronounced them husband and wife in the name of God, according to the Articles and Covenants of the Church of Latter-day Saints. And then a month later, he performs the marriage of John Boynton and Susan Lowell after the order of heaven. And I think that’s key, right? He’s slowly figuring it out. He says, “I pronounced upon them the blessings of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and such other blessings as the Lord put into my heart.” So it’s just coming step by step. And I think that’s really important for us to understand the trajectory of how this all worked out.

So it’s fascinating to me, that in section 131, this new revelation of, “Wait a minute, it’s not just the celestial kingdom”. There are three degrees within the celestial kingdom. And then he spends all of his time talking about the highest degree, leaving the rest of us to say what? He gives us no information about those two degrees. And apparently, God has decided that we don’t need that information yet. So that is what he gave in section 131. 

The following section, section 132, was a private revelation to Joseph and Emma before the subject of Joseph Smith polygamy became public. Further information on this topic can be found at

By 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 Mr. Kevin Prince, Source Expert

Kevin Prince is a religious scholar and host of the Gospel Learning Youtube channel. His channel has garnered over 41,000 subscribers and accumulated over 4.5 million views. Mr. Prince also created the Gospel Learning App, a reliable platform where individuals seeking truth can access trustworthy answers to religious questions from top educators worldwide.

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