Appendix 3: Statement on Marriage, circa August 1835

  • Source Note
  • Historical Introduction

Document Transcript

1 According to the custom of all civilized nations, marriage is regulated by laws and ceremonies: therefore we believe, that all marriages in this , 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, , , or , 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 so to do, but such persons will be considered weak in the faith of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
2 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 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 fulfill your covenants from henceforth and forever. Amen.”
3 The clerk of every church should keep a record of all marriages, solemnized in his .
4 All legal contracts of marriage made before a person is into this church, should be held sacred and fulfilled. Inasmuch as this church of Christ 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 case of death, when either is at liberty to marry again. It is not right to persuade a woman to be 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 all persons who exercise control over their fellow [p. 251] beings, and prevent them from embracing the truth, will have to answer for that sin. [p. 252]


  1. 1

    “Other authority” likely refers to clergy or public officials outside the church.  

  2. 2

    In the first recorded marriage performed by JS, he did not follow this text verbatim but conveyed similar ideas. His journal indicates that the text of the ceremony was his own. He stated, “You covenant to be each others companions through life, and discharge the duties of husband & wife in every respect.” (JS, Journal, 24 Nov. 1835.)  

  3. 3

    It is unclear who made such charges or in what venue they were made. Some evidence suggests that the doctrine of plural marriage was known to JS in 1831, prompted by his reading and questioning of the practice by Old Testament prophets during his detailed work in Genesis as part of his Bible revision. He may have begun sharing the concept with a select number of individuals in 1832.a Later accounts indicate that JS married Fanny Alger as a plural wife before or shortly after this 1835 statement was published. Following that marriage, JS likely did not marry other plural wives until 1841. The documentary record of the relationship between JS and Alger is fragmentary and contradictory.b Other reminiscences insist that Cowdery also practiced plural marriage at this time. These records claim that when Cowdery heard of the doctrine, he engaged in the practice without authorization from JS.c The statement’s explicit disavowal of polygamy led to its removal from the Doctrine and Covenants in 1876 when it was replaced by a July 1843 revelation explaining the concept of plural marriage.d  

    Deseret News. Salt Lake City. 1850–.

    Bachman, Danel W. “New Light on an Old Hypothesis: The Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage.” Journal of Mormon History 5 (1978): 19–32.

    Cowdery, Oliver. Letterbook, 1833–1838. Henry E. Huntington Library, San Marino, CA.

    McLellin, William E. Letter, Independence, MO, to Joseph Smith III, [Plano, IL], July 1872. Letters and Documents Copied from Originals in the Office of the Church Historian, Reorganized Church, no date. Typescript. CHL. MS 9090. Original at CCLA.

    Hancock, Mosiah Lyman. "Autobiography of Levi Ward Hancock," ca. 1896. CHL. MS 570.

    Woodruff, Wilford. Journals, 1833–1898. Wilford Woodruff, Journals and Papers, 1828–1898. CHL. MS 1352.

    Watt, George D. Papers, ca. 1846–1865. CHL.

    Walker, Charles L. Journal, May 1866–Jan. 1873. Charles L. Walker, Papers, 1854–1899. CHL.

    “History of the Church.” Juvenile Instructor 6, no. 16 (5 Aug. 1871): 122–123.

    Hales, Brian C. “Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation.” Journal of Mormon History 35, no. 4 (Fall 2009): 112–190.

    Compton, Todd. In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith. Salt Lake City: Signature Books, 2001.

    Hales, Brian C. “‘Guilty of Such Folly?’: Accusations of Adultery or Polygamy against Oliver Cowdery.” In Days Never to Be Forgotten: Oliver Cowdery, edited by Alexander L. Baugh, 279–293. Provo, UT: Religious Studies Center, Brigham Young University, 2009.

    Revelations Collection, 1831–ca. 1844, 1847, 1861, ca. 1876. CHL. MS 4583.

    (a“Celestial Marriage,” Deseret News, 2 June 1886, 310; Bachman, “Ohio Origins of the Revelation on Eternal Marriage,” 24–28.bOliver Cowdery, Far West, MO, to Warren Cowdery, 21 Jan. 1838, in Cowdery, Letterbook, 80–83; JS, Journal, 12 Apr. 1838; Minute Book 2, 12 Apr. 1838; William E. McLellin, Independence, MO, to Joseph Smith III, [Plano, IL], July 1872, typescript, Letters and Documents Copied from Originals in the Office of the Church Historian, Reorganized Church, CHL; Hancock, “Autobiography of Levi Ward Hancock,” 50, 61–65.cWoodruff, Journal, 26 Aug. 1857; Brigham Young, Discourse, 8 Sept. 1867, in George D. Watt, Discourse Shorthand Notes, 8 Sept. 1867, Pitman Shorthand Transcriptions, CHL; Walker, Journal, 26 July 1872; “History of the Church,” 122; see also Hales, “Fanny Alger and Joseph Smith’s Pre-Nauvoo Reputation,” 112–190; and Compton, In Sacred Loneliness, 25–42; for a refutation of Cowdery’s involvement in polygamy, see Hales, “Accusations of Adultery or Polygamy Against Oliver Cowdery,” 279–293.dRevelation, 12 July 1843, in Revelations Collection, CHL [D&C 132].)
  4. 4

    No extant documents show specific accusations against JS, the church, or its missionaries concerning baptizing women against their husbands’ wishes or influencing baptized wives to leave their husbands to join the Saints, but in the months following August 1835, the topic was raised again in two separate letters to the elders of the church. A hint at the types of circumstances to which JS responded in these letters can be found in the 1832–1833 missionary diary of Samuel Smith. He recorded the contentious exchanges caused when a woman joined the church and planned to flee her abusive husband and migrate to Zion. The husband confronted Smith, declaring that he and his companion Orson Hyde “had been persuadeing his woman to leave him” and that they were preaching that “people must Repent & go to Zion to be delivered from those Judgments that was coming upon the wicked.” (Samuel Smith, Diary, 22 July 1832; see also JS, “To the elders of the church of Latter Day Saints,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Sept. 1835, 1:179–182; and JS, “To the elders of the church of Latter Day Saints,” LDS Messenger and Advocate, Nov. 1835, 2:209–212.)  

    Smith, Samuel. Diary, Feb. 1832–May 1833. CHL. MS 4213.

    Latter Day Saints’ Messenger and Advocate. Kirtland, OH. Oct. 1834–Sept. 1837.