Tuesday, January 14, 2014

On Marriage: An 1842 LDS Declaration

The following originally appeared in Times and Seasons 3/23 (1 October 1842): 939-940.  
From the Book of Doctrine & Covenants of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. 
According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this church of Christ of Latter Day Saints, should be solemnized in a public meeting, or feast, prepared for that purpose: and that the solemnization should be performed by a presiding high priest, high priest, bishop, elder, or priest, not even prohibiting those persons who are desirous to get married, of being married by other authority. - We believe that it is not right to prohibit members of this church from marrying out of the church, if it be their determination to do so, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 
Marriage should be celebrated with prayer and thanksgiving; and at the solemnization, the persons to be married, standing together, the man on the right, and the woman on the left, shall be addressed, by the person officiating, as he shall be directed by the holy Spirit; and if there be no legal objections, he shall say, calling each by their names: "You both mutually agree to be each other's companion, husband and wife, observing the legal rights belonging to this condition; that is, keeping yourselves wholly for each other, and from all others, during your lives."  And when they shall have answered "Yes," he shall pronounce them "husband and wife" in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, and by virtue of the laws of the country and authority vested in him: "may God add his blessings and keep you to fulfil your covenants from henceforth and forever.  Amen." 
The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his branch. 
All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is baptized into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled.  Inasmuch as this church has been reproached with the crime of fornication, and polygamy: we declare that we believe, that one man should have one wife; and one woman, but one husband, except in the case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again.  It is not right to persuade a woman to be baptized contrary to the will of her husband, neither is it lawful to influence her to leave her husband.  All children are bound by law to obey their parents; and to influence them to embrace any religious faith, or be baptized, or leave their parents without their consent, is unlawful and unjust.  We believe that husbands, parents and masters who exercise control over their wives, children, and servants and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin. 
We have given the above rule of marriage as the only one practiced in this church, to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a matter of his own manufacture; and further to disabuse the public ear, and shew that the said Bennett and his misanthropic friend Origen Bachelor, are perpetrating a foul and infamous slander upon an innocent people, and need but be known to be hated and despised.  In support of this position, we present the following certificates: -  
We the undersigned members of the church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints and residents of the city of Nauvoo, persons of families do hereby certify and declare that we know of no other rule or system of marriage than the one published from the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate to show that Dr. J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a creature of his own make as we know of no such society in this place nor never did.
    S. Bennett,                N. K. Whitney,
    George Miller,           Albert Pettey,
    Alpheus Cutler,         Elias Higbee,
    Reynolds Cahoon,     John Taylor,
    Wilson Law,              E. Robinson,
    W. Woodruff,           Aaron Johnson.
We the undersigned members of the ladies' relief society, and married females do certify and declare that we know of no system of marriage being practised in the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints save the one contained in the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and we give this certificate  to the public to show that J. C. Bennett's "secret wife system" is a disclosure of his own make.
        Emma Smith, President,
        Elizabeth Ann Whitney, Counsellor,
        Sarah M. Cleveland, Counsellor,
        Eliza R. Snow, Secretary,
    Mary C. Miller,        Catharine Pettey,
    Lois Cutler,              Sarah Higbee,
    Thirza Cahoon,         Phebe Woodruff,
    Ann Hunter,             Leonora Taylor,
    Jane Law,                Sarah Hillman,
    Sophia R. Marks,     Rosannah Marks,
    Polly Z. Johnson,      Angeline Robinson,
    Abigail Works.
The passage quoted from the Doctrine and Covenants was, at the time, Section 101.  It was canonized in August 1835 along with the rest of the Doctrine and Covenants at a conference that occurred while Joseph Smith was absent from Kirtland.  However, that section was not removed from the Doctrine and Covenants until 1876.  During the time that the above article was published in the Times and Seasons, that periodical was edited by Joseph Smith himself.  Of the initial signatories of the second certificate, all four of them by that point knew something about the practice of plural marriage.  Emma Smith could not help but be fully aware.  Sarah M. Cleveland, in spite of already being married at the time to John Cleveland (who, while not LDS, was friendly to Joseph Smith), with whom she had children, also married Joseph Smith himself sometime in the first half of 1842.  Elizabeth Ann Whitney, the other Relief Society counselor, consented to give her daughter Sarah Ann Whitney as a plural wife to Joseph Smith in a marriage that occurred on 27 July 1842.  (Her husband also consented, even though he disclaimed any knowledge of such practices by signing the first certificate here.)  Eliza R. Snow had herself become a plural wife of Joseph Smith in a marriage that occurred a month earlier on 29 June 1842, at which Sarah M. Cleveland acted as witness.  

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