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Did Joseph Smith marry a 14-year-old girl?

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

According to United States law, the minimum age for a woman to be able to marry was 12 years old. However, very few women were married at this age. The average marriage age for women in the early to mid-1800s was around 20-23 years old. On the frontier, the average age for a woman to be married had more outliers–with more younger women marrying as well as more older women marrying. 

Many factors contributed to a wider range of women getting married on the frontier, but at the forefront of these reasons was necessity. Life on the frontier was difficult, it became slightly easier when the workload was shared between a husband and wife. Life on the frontier could also be dangerous, especially for a woman without a husband or another male to offer her protection. With these necessities, both men and women got married when the opportunity arose.

Mormons lived on the frontier of the United States for many years, in Missouri, Illinois, and Utah and frontier marriage patterns can be seen in the practice of polygamy. Joseph Smith wives ages varied greatly. Smith’s plural marriages mostly fell within the average marriage age range of married women in the eighteenth century. However, there were also outliers among Smith’s wives’ ages. Smith’s youngest wife was Helen Mar Kimball. She was 14 years old when she and Smith were sealed. The oldest woman Smith married was 58 years old. Her name was Rhoda Richards.