The church’s disclosures, in essays online, are part of an effort to be transparent about its history as church members are encountering disturbing claims about the faith on the internet. Many Mormons, especially those with polygamous ancestors, say they were well aware Smith’s successor, Brigham Young , practised polygamy when he led the flock in Salt Lake City. But they did not know the full truth.
“Joseph Smith was presented to me as a practically perfect prophet, and this is true for a lot of people,” said Emily Jensen, a blogger and editor in Farmington, Utah, who often writes about Mormon issues. She said the reaction of some Mormons resembled the grief stages of denial and anger: “This is not the church I grew up with, this is not the Joseph Smith I love.”
Smith probably did not have sexual relations with all of his wives, because some were “sealed” to him only for the next life, according to the essays posted by the church. But for his first wife, Emma, polygamy was “an excruciating ordeal”. The four treatises on polygamy reflect a new resolve by a church long accused of secrecy to respond with openness to the kind of thorny historical and theological issues causing some to become disillusioned or even to abandon the faith.
Mormons accept founder Joseph Smith had up to 40 wives