Excerpts of The Things You See and Hear at MHA from Signature Books
Some highlights from this year's Mormon History Association meetings in Springfield, Illinois. On a session devoted to polygamy, Don Bradley showed from newly discovered documents at LDS Church Archives that two of Joseph Smith's plural wives, Melissa Lott and Eliza Snow, believed Fanny Alger was among the founding prophet's wives. Eliza was living with the Smiths in Kirtland, Ohio, in 1835 when Emma kicked Fanny out of the house. Historians are divided on whether Fanny was a wife or mistress.
George Smith spoke on the popularity of John Milton's treatise on polygamy, which attained wide circulation in America in 1825, and Brian Hales advanced the hypothesis that Joseph Smith only had sex with his wives who were otherwise unencumbered, not with his polyandrous wives. In the q & a, Larry Foster suggested that "proxy husbands" would be a better term (used by Brigham Young) for arrangements based on sex, rather than "polyandrous wives"—to which we might also suggest the term "Foster Husbands."
Another interesting session was sponsored by members of the Joseph Smith Papers staff whose expertise is in the law. One of the presenters, Jeffrey N. Walker, defended Joseph Smith's use of Habeas Corpus in disregarding arrest warrants issued by the state. Another presenter, Joseph I. Bentley, asserted that it was legal and right for the Nauvoo City Council to destroy the Nauvoo Expositor—that other cities had smashed presses deemed a nuisance, that the Bill of Rights did not apply to cities, and that this act prevented the inciting of a riot. (Not mentioned was the fact that when the city called up a posse to destroy the press, the citizens who began the looting and mahem went on to burn down the editors' houses; if the point had been to prevent a riot, it ironically produced one.)