VIDEO: Can Prophets Make Mistakes? A Candid Conversation with Scott Woodward | Let's Get Real with Stephen Jones

VIDEO: Can Prophets Make Mistakes? A Candid Conversation with Scott Woodward | Let’s Get Real with Stephen Jones


In this episode of Let’s Get Real with Stephen Jones, Stephen sits down with Scott Woodward, a passionate educator and devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, to discuss some of the most challenging topics related to LDS Church history and doctrine.

They discuss complex issues associated with LDS Church history and doctrine, including plural marriage, uncomfortable truths, and the myth of a prophet’s infallibility.

Whether you’re a young adult in the Church or interested in learning more, this thought-provoking conversation offers valuable insights and perspectives.


I think the number one myth, if we could address it, that would make a big difference in how people approach church history and doctrine, is.

Scott Woodward, an expert in many of the areas of church history, plural marriage, Joseph Smith, history in general, race and the priesthood.

The myth of prophetic infallibility.

People question the validity of the modern prophets.

We don’t say that we believe that prophets don’t make mistakes, but we say that we believe that prophets can make mistakes. But we avoid ever talking about any time they ever actually do. I’ll give you one example that bothers people to no end. Question, did Joseph trespass against Emma in any way in the way that he practiced plural marriage? The answer is it’s more real.

How would you describe yourself? How would you describe it in your own words, your bio?

I’m a believer in the truth claims of the church. I’m a believer in Joseph Smith. I think he’s absolutely a true prophet. As I’ve learned more and more about him like that, it’s nuanced what I understand that to mean, of course. What is a prophet? Do I think the same thing now as I did when I was 17? No, it’s been nuanced, but it’s more real. It’s more authentic. I was a believer in the truth claims and someone who’s hopefully I think I’ve looked at- Everything. I don’t know about everything.

Probably, I mean, more than most.

Okay, more than the average person, sure. But this is what I do. I teach. Before you teach, step one is you got to learn.

Tell me about the time when you were like, I know I want to.

Be a teacher. Yeah. I feel like God was stalking me. He was giving me some of the best teachers in the church, man. I was just.

Like, Wow.

Scott, you could do this. I’ve been blessed, man. I got off my mission. I went to B-Y-U, Idaho, and landed in David A. Bednar’s religion class. Are you serious? Really? Yeah, teachings of the living prophets. He was president of the university, and he taught one religion class. It was teachings of the living prophets.

Wait, tell me what that’s like. What’s it like being in his class?

It’s a Ednaar’s class. He’s fun. I don’t know if you often get to see Alderbender being fun in general conference, but he has a good sense of humor. He’s also pretty straight arrow as a teacher. High demand, high expectations of his students. He said this, he said on our first day, Syllabis Day, he said, If you do everything that I ask in this class, you’ll get a C. C is an average grade, and the average expectation for every student is that you do what the teacher asks. We’re like, Excuse me, Elder Bettner, sir. How do we get an A? If we want an A, he’s like, You’re going to have to figure that out.

Whoa. Yeah.

You’re going to have to come up with some A project, something that’s relevant to the class. Teachings and living prophets. What could you do? How could you go above and beyond? I think an A is above and beyond. I think a C is average. People don’t, on average, go above and beyond. Wow! Do you want an A? Figure it out. Could you share some examples of what people have done? He’s like, No. I want you to be.

An agent to act. That was tortured to you. You’re like, But I mean.

Maybe just like a hit. He’s like, No, just you be an agent. You act. Don’t be acted upon. I don’t want you just to fit some… Try to guess what I’m thinking and try to do if you think something would enhance your ability to understand the teachings of the living prophets and you want to go above and beyond, do it, write it up, and make your case to me at the end of the semester. We’ll talk about it. We’ll negotiate your grade. Really? Yeah.

You basically tell them what grade you want.

I tell them what grade I thought I earned.

And then he says why. If you could make the case, you can get the grade.

Yeah, you got to make the case.


Person? One on one? Yeah. The midterm was 15-minute interview with him, and the final was a half hour. We could ask him any questions we wanted. He said, If you want to talk about your grade for a half hour, we could do that. He said, Or you could think to yourself, I’m talking to somebody who meets with the living prophets more often than their own wives. Do I really want to talk for a half hour about my grade? He said, If you just want to come in and say, ‘I’ve been nurse, this is the grade I think I deserve, and here’s why, here’s the work I put in. ‘ And he could say, I agree. Now we have 28 more minutes. What do you want to talk about? He said, Then we could talk about whatever questions you want.


So that’s what I did. What did you ask? Oh, dude, that’s private information. Really? Really? I’m trying to think. You don’t remember?

I do remember.

I remember some of them.

You’re shielding it like, I don’t know if I go to… I don’t know.

Yeah, it’s the sealed portion. -what was it? It’s the sealed portion of the Scott Woodward Journal.

You met with Elder Benar for 15 minutes at least.

One on one. In midterm and then another half hour for final. Yeah. That was him. He was just like, I’m not going to spoon-feed you, you’re an agent to act. The degree of what you’re going to get out of this course is going to be exactly proportionate to the degree in which you act and you’re not acted upon. Yeah, high demand, but so fun to pick his brain. We’re talking about Elder Scott. This week, we’re talking about Elder Scott, Richard G. Scott. He was a living prophet at the time, and we’d read some talks. The elder bed in our hand picked for us to read. Then we’d come to class and he wouldn’t just go over the talks again. He’d say, All right, what do you want to talk about with Elder Scott? It was a two-hour class every Friday once a week.

He expected you to have already read it. He didn’t lecture on what it was. He expect you to come ready.

That’s right. We’d do things like we planned before class. We would get together in little clusters like, What should we ask? We’d ask him good questions. He actually knows Elder Scott. We should like… It was cool. I remember on that day, actually, he said, All right, what questions do you have? That’s how it’d start every class, questions.

Love that.

I would raise my hand and said, Elder Benar, have you seen Elder Scott recently? He said, I have. I saw him on Wednesday.


Raised my hand again. I was like, Did you learn anything from Elder Scott that you could share with us, Elder Benar? He said, Actually, I did. I told him we were going to be talking about him this Friday, and I asked him if he had any counsel for you.


I wrote it down right here. He pulls it out of his pocket, a little three by five card. I was like, I can’t believe it.

How cool is that? But I.

Don’t know if he was actually going to share that with us unless we asked. Interesting. I don’t know if he was ever going to share that.

Would he have, do you think? Maybe not? I don’t know.

Maybe not. He was fun that way just to be like, You know I have stuff to deliver, but I’m not just going to spoon-feed you. You got to be in the driver’s seat as a learner. Right.

And that’s where the.

Learning happens. That’s where the learning happened, yeah. That vibe, ever since, like I said, early teenage, well, mid-teenage years, that’s when I… It’s been turned on since then, so that wasn’t a problem for me. Of course, I’m going to be engaged in the learning. One of my favorite things to do is learn. That’s why I chose your class. In fact, when I first met him on campus, I said, Don’t you teach a class here, a religion class? He said, I do, but you probably wouldn’t want to be part of it. I was like, Why not? Because it’s really hard. I was like, Okay, it’s on, man.

Yeah, and he knows that. He’s a.

Good teacher, man. He knew he was pushing my buttons. He’s a great teacher.

What did he say in the letter? In the card, do you remember?

I totally remember. Yeah, he say? The council. I totally remember, yeah. He said, here’s what Elder Scott said. He said, Tell your students that they were not sent to Earth to be entertained. Tell them that God has sent them to Earth at this time to make a difference in preparing the world for the second coming, something like that pretty close. Wow!

What was it like in the room when he’s sitting there with the card that he wrote down as he was with Elder Scott? Or did Elder Scott write it?

He was the elevator with Elder Scott. Yeah, and he writes it down. Elder Scott said it. Elder Bednar wrote it, shared it with us.

Was the room like? Everybody’s like-.

There’s only 15 of us in the class. Oh, wow. We were like, That’s awesome.

That’s amazing. Yeah, it was cool. You had this intimate 15-student class with Elder Bednar.

It was teachings of living prophets the semester before he was called to become a living prophet. Wow! That was cool. That’s pretty cool. Was awesome.

That’s amazing. Anything else you want to add with that? Any other cool experiences from that class that were memorable?

I mean, a ton, but I guess that’s it.

Well, the reason why I want to ask because I feel like it’s a good segue, and maybe it doesn’t even include that topic, but you’ve been teaching church history at BYU, Idaho. You’ve been in a career as a a seminary teacher. You started your career, the total of how many years now? In church education?

Yeah, almost 18. I guess almost 20 when you do student teaching and all that stuff.

Two decades. You’ve been teaching every day, studying every day, deeply, not just to know the surface stuff, but going deep, deep, deep. In your experience, what would you say are some of the biggest myths that people have about church history or doctrine or concepts that you think could be helpful to other people?

The biggest myths.

Because the way it got me on that topic of even to even ask that is some people question a lot of times, and I don’t want to assume that this is one, the validity of the modern prophets, for example, especially Joseph Smith. Was he a prophet? Brigham Young. There’s a lot of allegations like, Brigham Young was like this and that.


Don’t know if that’s one of the ones that you would mention, but that’s where that.

Question came from. I think that’s the number one. I think the number one myth, if we could address it, that would make a big difference in how people approach church history and doctrine, is the myth of prophetic infallibility. That’s a cultural myth. It’s not a stated myth. We don’t say that we believe that prophets don’t make mistakes. We don’t say that we believe that. But we say that we believe that prophets can make mistakes. But we avoid ever talking about any time they ever do. That creates a cultural feeling of the apostles are like, I mean, they probably talk to God every day. They’re almost demigod status. That’s probably overstating it a little bit. But to make the point, our impulse, if you have that as your way you think about church history, that the prophets are always right. The apostles are always doing what God would do if he was there. They’re always saying the things that he would have said. If you think that, then you’re going to come at church history pretty defensively. Anytime the prophets look bad or anytime they might be potentially making an error, you’re going to either be defensive of them, which sometimes is pretty hard because it’s sometimes pretty indefensible, or then the other option would be then I lose confidence in the prophets.

I thought that they were so close to God that I thought that they didn’t make mistakes. So maybe I have believed a myth, and so then you could start to pull back in your faith. You start to pull away. Some people would totally abandon them. I don’t have to defend them on the one hand, defend something indefensible. I come across some statement of Brigham Young about race that is indefensible, honestly. I either have to hunker down and defend him that, No, what he’s saying true in a way. It’s like, No, it’s not true in any way. Or on the other hand, I got to abandon Brigham Young.

So very polarized.

Yeah, and you don’t have to do that. The myth is that you have to do one of those two things. Either they are pretty much flawless or they’re not. This is a scam. We’ve been duped into thinking that they’re these almost demigods. But oh, look, right? Here’s a little got you game. We can now play a church history. Look, you made a mistake right there. What did you say about that? There’s another mistake, right? See? Now it’s like, Oh, shoot. If I hold the paradigm that prophets are pretty close to infallible, and then I encounter their errors or mistakes, I’m in trouble testimony-wise. I think the more healthy way to go about this is to adopt the Lord’s paradigm that he drops in Doctrine and Covenants, Section 1 about prophets and apostles. It’s in DNC 1, folks. Yeah. Like he says- Very beginning. Very beginning.

Which people don’t realize, maybe people do know, but the context of the first section is that it’s not actually the first revelation. It’s like the preamble. It’s like the preface of the book. So this is a very intentional piece.

Very intentional piece. Seeking a preface to these revelations in the Doctrine and Covenants Committee tried to write a preface, and none of them loved it. They asked Joseph to inquire of the Lord. He inquires. We get DNC 1. In DNC 1, the Lord says there’s a calamity coming. It’s going to be eventually the second coming. There’s calamity for the wicked. Therefore, he called Joseph Smith. Joseph Smith, he defines him as a weak servant. Then he also called other servants and gave them commandments, revelations to help guide them in the building up of the church and kingdom of God on earth to go out and tell other people. But the way he describes his servants, the ones that he calls, here’s some of his adjectives: weak, simple, error-prone, and sinful. Wow. That’s how the Lord views his prophets and apostles. Interesting. In Doctrine and Covenants 1, these are weak, simple, error-prone, sinful. Some of these revelations you’re going to see in the Doctrine and Covenants are meant is me working with the weakness of the language of those people. It’s me working with the errors that they make. It’s me correcting some of thecalling them out on some of the things that they did wrong.

In public, in front of everyone, the Doctrine and Covenants is filled with that.

Yeah, man. That’s why I say it’s a cultural paradigm that’s not substantiated by the scriptures. In fact, Doctrine and Covenants, one begins. Actually, the very first revelation we have chronologically that was written down by Joseph is DNC 3. What’s DNC 3? It is a rebuke to Joseph Smith. This kid who has to peer pressure Martin Harris, given him the manuscript that God told him twice not to do it.

That’s right.

The Lord rips him for several verses. If you don’t think prophets make mistakes, that’s a whopper, dude. Losing 116 pages of scripture when God told you twice to not to. Dude, Joseph felt like an idiot. The Lord saying, Your feelings are justified. But then midway through, he says, But God is mercifuliful. Yeah. Like, 22-year-olds can’t mess up the work of God. The work of God cannot be messed up by 22-year-olds. Joseph, if you’ll repent, there’s still hope for you. But that’s the first chronological revelation. That’s DNC 3 and then DNC-1. It’s meant to be the first revelation we now read is framing the prophets and apostles as these vulnerable, flawed people who God works through to bring to pass the marvelous work and wonder. If we could just keep that paradigm, it’d be amazing. Let me share a scripture. Yeah, of course. Check this out. Now go to the end of Joseph Smith’s prophetic career, Doctrine and Covenants 1:24. 1:24? Yeah. Look at verse 1. This is Nauvu now, right? This is Nauvu. This is about four years before Joseph died. Section what? Section 124. 124. That’s right. Got it. Verse 1, look how the Lord begins this revelation.

Imagine you’re Joseph Smith, right? Here’s the revelation. In fact, do you want to read it, Stephen? Yeah.

Verily, let’s say the Lord unto you, my servant Joseph Smith, I am well pleased with your offerings and acknowledgments which you have made. For unto this end have I raised you up that I might show forth my wisdom through the weak things of the earth.

He’s like, Thanks. Is that a compliment?


Was that a compliment or not a compliment? Joseph, I have raised you up to show what I can do with weak people, man. Thank you, I think. Thank you, I think. That’s the Lord’s View of Joseph Smith, right? Is that the marvelous work and a wonder is what I was able to accomplish through a guy like that. Oh, wait. Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa.

Whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa. That’s powerful. Because you hear it. A marvelous work is about to come forth among the children of men. According to you, you’re saying one of the biggest marvels of the entire thing is that God can take fallen people and still make this miraculous outcome.

That’s the miracle of the restoration right there, right?

That’s the thing in many ways that’s holding us back. That’s the paradox. Isn’t that interesting?

Meaning what? Meaning we hold.

Ourselves back. We are saying, Well, the fallacy, right? These prophets are fallible. But he’s saying, No, that’s the point.

That’s what I do. I work through weak people like Joseph Smith, like Brigham Young, like Wilfrid Woodrow. If we’re looking to the prophets for flawless examples, we’re going to be disappointed. But the Lord never told us to look for that, right Instead, look for the miracle of what he can do through those people. Just know that they are. Let’s do some example. Can we do some concrete examples? Yeah, let’s do some concrete examples. Let’s do some concrete examples. Let’s start with something, J. U. C. Let’s start with… Let’s start with polygamy. Let’s focus. Okay, okay.

That’s not juicy.

That’s not.

Oh, sorry. I’m just joking. I don’t know how- I would say that’s probably the top three.

Yeah, for sure.


Relative. For sure. Yeah, polygamy is uncomfortable, right? It’s uncomfortable for anyone who’s serious about investigating it. On its surface, it’s uncomfortable. The more you investigate it, it’s still uncomfortable. It’s always uncomfortable. Let me say this about polygamy. When Joseph Smith began first practicing polygamy in Ernest, in Nauvoo, the first try was the first try, it was in Kirtland. But in Ernest, when he first starts doing this, this almost ends his marriage. That’s right. Yeah, this almost ends his marriage. This was so hard for both Joseph and Emma. Now, pause right there. If our instinct is, Well, Joseph is pretty flawless, then our tendency would be to blame Emma, right?

Yeah. Why would you want to do that?

Just to have more faith. Yeah. Come on, sister. But actually, can I show you another scripture? Doctrine and Covenants 132, this is the revelation. This is.

The one. It was private, too, though.

Yeah, to Emma. It was to Emma. Yeah, to try to help her understand the doctrines behind plural marriage. Then verse 56, check this out. Verse 56, The Lord tells Emma. I’ll read this one.


Says, And again, verily I say, let my handmaid, Emma, forgive my servant Joseph his trespasses. Let’s just pause right there. Question, did Joseph trespass against Emma in any way in the way that he practiced plural marriage? In this context, the Lord is saying, Yes. What exactly did Joseph do? Well, we’re not sure specifically what the Lord’s referring to here, but I’ll give you one example that bothers people to no end. Sometimes Joseph didn’t tell Emma about some of the women he had married.

Which he said that he would do at first, right?

Well, we don’t know about.

Any- We don’t know.

Okay. Yeah, we don’t know about any agreement upfront about anything like that. I mean, the first experience he had with Fannie Elger in Kirtland was a disaster. It was train wreck, dumpster fire. Train on fire in a dumpster. It was it was bad. I think Joseph swore off plural marriage at that point. Fast forward what, five years?

This is Fannie Alger.

If we were to-Fannie Alger, yeah. She was a 19-year-old girl working as a maid in the house. 14-year-old comes later in Nauvoo. But that was a disaster. Then an angel comes again in Nauvu and says it’s time to start practicing again. We might want to jump to defend Joseph. We might want to say, Well, yeah. I mean, it was so hard the first time. You don’t want to tell her about some of these things. But honestly, as I think about it, it’s like you probably should have told her. That could be one of the trespasses where Joseph actually trespassed against Emma. Now, should we excuse Joseph for not telling Emma about some of the women that he had married? There could have been reasons. There might be justifications, blah, blah, blah, but we don’t have to justify him, right? Yeah. But on the other hand, let’s not him either. Neither Emma nor the Lord condemned him for that.



Be clear, you’re saying, I want to make sure this is clear. You’re not saying you know for a fact what the trespass was, but you’re saying- We don’t know. -it definitely could be.

Considered one of them. Yeah, that’s one that bothers a lot of people. I say, Great. Verse 56 is saying, You’re probably right. You probably should have told her.


He didn’t. And the Lord’s asking Emma to forgive him his trespasses against her in this regard. So whatever they were, I think that was probably among them. That’s my feeling is this involves Emma one way or the other. So she should probably be, whether she’s opposing you tooth and nail or not, you should probably let her know. Anyway, I don’t know. Maybe one day Joseph will say, You don’t know what you’re talking about, Scott. I’d say, That’s true.

Again, there could be more we don’t even know about.

Right. But did Joseph trespass when it comes to plural marriage with Emma in some regard? The answer is, Yeah, the Lord said so. Do we need to defend Joseph? No. Do we need to condemn him? Please don’t. That’s not what the Lord asked Emma to do. Anyway, so that’s one example. If we can just let the raw human be there, let the weak prophet be there in the story, someone who’s trying to do the will of God, but he’s also trying to figure out how to do this when he’s got a wife who’s pretty opposed to this practice. Talk about a rock and a hard spot, right? Yeah. Did he manage it perfectly? Obviously not. Does that mean plural marriage isn’t a true principle at that time? Does that mean that God didn’t actually command it? Does that mean Joseph is making all this stuff? No. It doesn’t mean that either. We don’t need to jump to extremes here. It’s like, He made a mistake. The whole thing is bunk. No, it’s not. That’s the premise of the restoration. God’s working with weak, simple, error-prone, sinful, prophets and apostles and other servants. Then through people like that, he’s bringing forth this marvelous work in a wonder.

Polygamy has some pretty rough spots. It’s a hard topic for a lot of people to hear about. What is the.

Hardest one that you’ve hear that people struggle with in your experience.

As you teach? What’s poor marriage? Yeah. Yeah, that one. He didn’t tell Emma. Another one is he married a 14-year-old girl. What the inuino is there is like, he’s a pedophile. How could he marry a 14-year-old girl?

That’s one of the assumptions.

Yeah. People bring a lot of assumptions to this. When you’re doing church history, you got to be careful that you’re always establishing the context. The analogy I like is, I don’t know, I was just trying to think one day like, Well, it’s a good analogy for true facts out of context. I thought about an electrical wire. You get an electric wire that doesn’t have the protective rubber sheath and you touch it, it’s shocking. There are facts in church history that are true but out of context, they’re shocking. They will shock you. Like if you say, Do you know Joseph Smith, married a 14-year-old girl? I don’t have any context. That’s a shocking fact. That’s actually a true fact. But the context is, crucial for that fact, right? This is Helen Mar, Kimble, 14-year-old daughter of Hebracy, Kimble, and Apostle. And the proposal was made by her father, actually, Hebracy, Kimble, and Apostle, that Joseph, Mary, and Helen has a way to link the Smith and Kimble families together. It would be an eternity-only ceiling. There would be no sexuality. It was intended simply to link the families for eternity. Back in Nauvoo, they were trying to figure out, again, how to use the sealing keys.

Sometimes we think that God just gave Joseph a manual, like here’s how you use the ceiling power. But he didn’t. He gave them the keys and let them figure out along the way some of this stuff. They were doing ceilings horizontally, like-dynastically, like connecting families horizontally rather than today, we just seal ourselves to our forefathers, our parents, grandparents. Back then, they were sealing horizontally to prophets and apostles and linking families together in this way. And so plural marriage was a means by which two families could join. Helen has actually written several, I think, two books on her experience as a plural wife. So if you wanted to know, you should ask Helen.

Go to her own personal-.

Go to her. Yeah, she believes Joseph is a true prophet all the way through. She’s really bright. She’s sharp. She’s even sassy. She’s got a fun personality. If you want to know about what that was like, was there some oppressive dark guy trying to abuse his ecclesiastical power and taking advantage of young girls, the worst possible slant that anyone could ever put on the story. When you actually investigate it under careful scrutiny, see the whole story. None of that is even remotely true. Is it an uncomfortable fact that he married a 14-year-old girl? Sure. Is there anything sleazy that occurred as a result? No. The parents were involved, super incredible parents, Victorian, pure as they come. This was a religious act to connect two families to the end. No sexuality. I don’t think they were ever even in the same room again after that. Yeah, it was… That was it. So to.

Clarify this, the context really does matter. The context really does matter. When you look at any piece of church history, and specifically, in this case, you’re saying with polygamy, knowing the context and with her, 14-year-old, her parents had a desire to have her connected in the family. But there are some allegations, and this is the one that I know of that people struggle with is low case some of the marriages were actually there was sexual intercourse involved.

What’s a way to look at that with an eternal or with looking at the context?


I know that’s a really blunt question. No, it’s good. But do you know what I’m saying? Because I think that’s one of the ones that I know. It’s like, well, wait, if I was married to someone and I know that this idea of Kimbo, it is connecting the families.

No sexuality, no problem. But when sexuality is introduced into it, that adds a.

Whole other light. I think that that’s one of the elements that people are like, Wait, I don’t know if that’s just crazy.

Totally, yeah. The theological justifications for plural marriage in Doctrine and Covenants 132, there’s four of them given. One of those is to multiply and replenish the Earth, right? Yeah. So sexuality is inevitable for that to come to pass. Those are women who were not that young. They’re not that young. They’re the people who were older who were not married, and then he marries them for time and eternity. There’s these time and eternity marriages. In that sense, in the New and Everlasting Covenant, it’s now legal in the eyes of God. For them to attempt to create children would be authorized at that time. Same way that Old Testament Jacob, he’s got four wives, tribes. That’s where we get the 12 tribes of Israel. That’s how you get families that big that quick. Ironically, if there were, we have no DNA evidence of any- Offspring. -offspring of Joseph that ever lived to maturity. There are stories that maybe there were some, but they died at young or miscarriages or whatever. But yeah, man. Hugo Parego, he’s our Latter-day Saint DNA expert, and he’s looked at all the different claims of children of Joseph Smith besides Emma, and to this day, he can find none.

Anyway, there was some sexuality with those who he was married to for time and eternity. Some of them said so. We have journal accounts that say he spent the night with one of his wives.


Yep. They spent the whole night together, right? Yeah.

They don’t know for sure, but they’re like.

Maybe he’s had… Maybe they were playing UNO. Nobody knows, right? But yeah, but it was- Assumed.

Yeah, it’s a- But it is a fact that there were other just calling it what it is.

That’s right. In fact, when the church comes to the west, when we come out to Utah, there’s these allegations that Joseph Smith was a polygamous. His own children who stayed back in Nauvoo with Emma, who never comes west, they wanted to disprove that point. They wanted to disprove that their dad had started polygamy. They wanted it to be pinned on Brigham. Interesting. They actually sent missionaries from Nauvoo to Utah to try to help their cousins come back to the truth and get rid of this or get out of this Brigham Young cult or whatever. But the problem was that there were still several of their father’s wives who were still alive. They wanted to interview them, and it’s the alleged wives of our father, Joseph. When they interview these women, they would ask them point blank like, Were you married to our dad? They would say, Yes. But did you have carnal relations with our father? That’s as close as you can get to like, Did you have sex? Did you have carnal relations with our father? They said, Yes. Wow! That’s how we get a few of these women like, Yes, there were carnal relations with your father.

That created a conundrum for the church over in Nauvoo, right? The RLDS Church at the time. That’s a conundrum. There’s still people that want to challenge today that Joseph Smith ever practiced polygamy. But I think that’s ridiculous as you look at the evidence is overwhelming that he did that he’s the one that started it. Within the logic of the revelations of the restoration generally and of Doctor and Covenants 132 specifically, Joseph was acting within the realm of proprietary, if that makes sense. There’s nothing that I have ever found in plural marriage that would disqualify Joseph Smith from being a true prophet of God. There’s nothing. It’s like if you knew this about his polygamy, then you’d be like, Oh, my gosh, I’m out. There’s nothing like that. There’s uncomfortable things. There’s things where you think he probably made a mistake there. You probably should have told Emma. The 14-year-old girl, that’s a nothing burger when you understand. I mean, it’s uncomfortable still, but it’s not like, Oh, he was doing some shinnie, Enegans, right? Yeah. Marrying other men’s wives, that’s the other one that some people like, What the heck? He married other men’s wives?

Yeah. But when you look at it, he’s actually… Most of those women were married to men who are not members of the church or were less active who did not put any faith in the afterlife. But these women are faithful. The understanding at the time was… I’m giving context now, right? Yeah. Let’s put some rubber around that electrical wire. The understanding at the time was you needed to be married probably in this life, to somebody faithful to qualify for the celestial kingdom. These women have these husbands who they know that’s not going to happen with. Oftentimes, well, we have a few scant records, so I can’t say often, but some records indicate that the husbands and the wives would approach Joseph and say, Could you just be sealed to my wife for eternity? I’ll have her now. You have her later. What do you say?

And they were members.

Or not? They were members or not. Sometimes less active, sometimes not believers. They would just say, My wife keeps nagging me like she needs a celestial marriage or whatever. Would you marry her for eternity? I’ll have her now. There’s no sex in those marriages, right? That’s where it sounds shady. It’s like he married 14 other men’s wives. It’s like, Yeah, no sexuality. In fact, I think that’s why Joseph liked those marriages. He could technically check the box of obedience. I’m keeping the commandment. He’s also protecting Emma’s emotions in terms of like, There’s no sexuality with these women. That was one way in which Joseph did plural marriages, which was trying to benefit those women according to the theology that you need to be married Celestually to qualify for Celestial Kingdom. He’s trying to help them in that way. Brigham Young Sisters, another example. She’s actually single, doesn’t have another husband. But she’s 53, I think, at the time. Yeah. And she’s like, I’m never going to get married. I’m never… Nobody will want me. I’ll just be an angel. I’ll just be a ministering angel. Joseph says to her, You don’t know what you’re talking about.

You don’t know if that’s what you would really want. He said, In fact, I’ll marry you right now. She’s 53.


Her name’s Fannie Young, and he says, Brigham, will you seal us together? Would that be all right, Fannie? She’s like, Sure. He marries her there to say, All right, you now have a celestial marriage. Do they ever spend any time together after that single moment? Nothing of record, right? Like no sexuality. It was another eternity only, where he’s just like, Let’s give you the ordinance, and then we’ll figure things out later. Now, to us, that seems pretty loosey-goosey, right? Let’s say that’s not how we understand ceilings and all that stuff works, but they’re working through in Nauvoo how to use the ceiling power. I don’t know. I don’t know. Was that too much information?

No, it was too much information. Not at all. No, It’s because to me, what I’m gathering from this is number one, you got to look at the whole big picture in every situation. Number two, especially when it comes to plural marriage or polygamy, but there’s a distinction between the two of those we haven’t gotten to. That’s right. It sounds like there’s a people who are desiring to receive what their understanding is exaltation.


They want to be able to receive that. In that case, with the women who, Sister Young, that you just explained, she wanted to have exaltation, you know what I mean? Joseph is like, Yeah, let’s do it right now. Let’s do the ordinance. Let’s do the ordinance. There’s this ordinance base, and it sounds like a lot of the assumptions come from our perspective of this time of where we are now and a lot of assumptions in general that I think is where a lot of the friction comes from.

Yeah, there’s evidence, right? People in power, in positions of power, abusing that power to take advantage of people sexually. Yeah, which happens. -to take advantage of people sexually, right? Yeah. How is Joseph Smith any different? Yeah. And it’s like, Well, the benefits and the benefit, but the redemption of Joseph Smith is in the details of those who are actually involved. You want to know how he was? Ask his wives. Was he good to them? Was he abusive? I would recommend Bryan Hills. He’s got the best scholarship on this. Bryan Hills, he’s one of those I’d call. He’s a primary scholar who’s just gone through all the evidence everywhere. Paid a guy $50,000 to find any other evidence out there that we don’t have. Any letter in a trunk in someone’s attic, anything about Joseph Smith’s polygamy, good, bad, ugly. He synthesized it all together. I made it available online for free. If you go to his website, Josephsmithspolygamy. Org. He’s got bios of all of Joseph Smith’s wives and then footnotes if you want to go deeper. You can find out all you want to know. Again, I’ll just say as a summary, there’s nothing damning in that.

There’s nothing that disqualifies Joseph to being a true prophet of God, in my estimation. There’s nothing uncomfortable? Yes. Disqualifying? No.

What’s the difference in your perspective? What’s the difference between the two of those?

Uncomfortable, it’s about religion and sexuality. That’s why it’s uncomfortable. Disqualifying, does Joseph do anything? Is he taking advantage of girls? Is he doing something that would be super sleazy, or even like a little bit sleazy. There’s no slease, there’s no shenanigans, there’s no abuse of his power. In fact, he would often propose to these women through their brother or their dad, the protector of their virtue, the protector of their chastity. He would ask them to propose to their sister or their daughter, whatever the case may be, on his behalf. That doesn’t sound like the actions of someone who’s trying to take advantage of girls. You don’t go to the brother. In fact, one of my favorites is Benjamin F. Johnson. When Joseph asked Benjamin F. Johnson to propose to his sister for Joseph, he explains plural marriage to him. Benjamin F. Johnson is one of his best friends. Benjamin F. Johnson, he looks straight in the eye and he’s like, Joseph, I’ve always known you to be a good man, a trustworthy man, and I will deliver your message to my sister. If I find out that you’re doing this to prostitute my sister, I will kill you personally.

Wow. Joseph’s smile and he said, Thank you, Benjamin. He said, That day will never come and you’ll live to have a testimony that plural marriage is a true principle. Wow. But does that sound like the actions of a man trying to take advantage of girls? You know what I mean? Yeah. Nothing sleazy. When you get to the details at this level, see how he’s maneuvering, talking with the brother, talking with the dad, connecting people so that they can have access to the promises of exaltation in the celestial kingdom, not living with them, limited sexuality. There was some with those who were time and eternity, but no babies that come from that. He’s doing the best he can, I think, to set the example, to set the pattern that subsequent apostles will follow and will have babies and will be able.

To-if he didn’t do it, they’d be like, Well, he didn’t do it. I know that’s probably hard for people to swallow, but I never thought about it that way. I never thought about it in the idea of setting an example for what it would be to come. Yeah.

His life was cut short, frankly, right? I mean, he was just in 1844. He’s 38 and a half. What would he have done? How did he live longer? Would he have had children? No doubt, right? But things are as they happened. But yeah, I think he did set the pattern for subsequent apostles and others.

Are there any… That’d be hard. It’s easy to just say that casually. Oh, you’re just setting the pattern. That’s not where we’re trying to get at. I just want to make that clear. You obviously, you teach this, you believe this, okay?

Believe what?

You believe that Joseph Smith was a prophet. You believe that you understand a lot of the history of polygamy more than most. Is there anything that you would say? I’m not trying to stir up doubt, I’m saying that we do know that we’re not really sure about and it’s not as clear for people. You’ve mentioned a few. Does that make sense what I’m asking?

Are there.

Any- Because you’re saying there’s no way he obviously was a prophet. He was this. Is there anything that might cause someone? What are the specific areas that are like… We’ve clarified many of them, but that they would question. That are a little bit like, We’re not sure yet. We’re still figuring that out.

Yeah, I think, well, just the legomy itself as a topic raises eyebrows because you’re now mixing religion and sexuality, and that already gets people edgy. It’s like, Whoa, hold on. That sounds weird. That could be… Just the topic itself is like, eyebrow raising. But then the big three, I’d say the big three, he didn’t tell Emma about some of the wives, 14-year-old girl, and he married other men’s wives. I think those are the biggest, the big three that just wrinkle people.

We’ve reviewed those. We’ve gone.

Through them. Yeah. So if it’s not, and I agree, if you don’t have context for those, theological context, historical context, emotional context, all the context of the times, that could be pretty devastating for your testimony. It jades your view of Joseph so strongly that you feel like you’ve been betrayed or begiled like Joseph Smith is not what he thought. I thought he was a good man. Here he is, marrying 14-year-old girls, still another man’s wife. It’s like, come on. We got to be honest when we’re doing church history. We also have to be honest that sometimes the historical record is spotty on a lot of this. But from the record we do have what we can piece together is not a picture of a guy abusing his authority or his power to take advantage of people. Here’s a very reluctant polygamous who’s trying to follow a commandment that’s uncomfortable for him and his wife and all those who are involved in the first generation. That’s the story that all the historical data tells most clearly, most transparently. That’s the story that’s real, that’s raw, and it’s in the record that we have. Everything else has to be in your window.

Everything else has to be spin. Everything else has to be trying to twist it to make it look like Joseph is-.

You don’t have all the information and you’re.

Like, Well, what is that? We’ll tell you what was really going on. Yeah. Yeah. She’s trying to be honest and aware of all the sources and the facts, aware of the people that were most closely involved. Sometimes we think we have more clarity on polygamy than those who are actually involved in it. We think we know Joseph’s motives better than the wives, than the women he was married to. That’s not fair. That’s not fair. That’s not honest. That’s not decent. If you want to know, ask those who were involved.

Are there any other? One of the big ones, number one, I would say you mentioned that just the fallacy of prophets in general is one of the biggest myths. Then within that, it connects really well with the polygamy-.

Church history problems.

Most church history problems are tied to, well, the polarization of I either got to go 100 % in and I will defend them to the death.


That I could… He’s completely not and everything else is false. Can you paint a picture for us a little bit better of what does it look like in your experience of someone who just goes to the death, almost to the demise of the scenario? When someone defends them to the death to where it can be damaging.


Does that.

Make sense? Yeah. Can I do a sensitive one? Yeah. I mean, we’re here, we’re talking. Let’s just do it. I think one example is it’s more real.




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