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Fanny Alger (30 September 1816 in Rehoboth, Massachusetts – 29 November 1889 in Indianapolis, Indiana) is alleged to have been the first plural wife of Joseph Smith, Jr. Historians differ on whether she was actually married to Smith, or if she was just involved in an affair with him.

Contents

Rumors of affair with Smith and alleged polygamous marriage

Alger's parents were neighbors of the Smiths, and Alger lived with Smith and his wife, Emma.[1] Chauncey and Ann Eliza Webb, ex-Mormons, later recalled that rumors had been whispered while Alger lived with the Smiths about Smith and Alger.[2] Alger stopped living with the Smiths as a result of a fallout with Emma and was dismissed as their housekeeper.[3]

The first contemporary reference to the alleged relationship was in a letter dated January 21, 1838. Oliver Cowdery wrote to his brother Warren stating that Smith had inappropriately spent time alone with Alger, referring to it as a "dirty, nasty, filthy affair."[4] During this time Cowdery was estranged from Smith and they were disagreeing over leadership issues in the new movement.[5]

Historian Lawrence Foster has dismissed the claim that Alger was ever married to Joseph Smith, stating that it is "debatable supposition, not an established fact".[6] Fawn Brodie, in her famous work No Man Knows My History, also made the claim that Alger had been an affair of Smith's.

In 1903, Benjamin F. Johnson, a patriarch in the LDS church in Utah, wrote a letter to George S. Gibbs. Although Johnson was a teenager at the time, and not an intimate of Smith, he repeated the rumors he had heard about the relationship and alleged that he had been "told by Warren Parish, that he himself and Oliver Cowdery did know that Joseph had Fannie Alger as a wife"[7] Johnson also claimed that, although Alger did not join the Saints in Utah, "she did not turn from the Church nor from her friendship for the Prophet while she lived"(sic).[8]

According to George D. Smith, Alger's marriage to Smith may have been attested by several contemporaries at the time, including Emma Smith, Warren Parish, Oliver Cowdery, and Heber C. Kimball,[9] even though publicly the leadership of the church, including Joseph Smith and Emma, [10] denied throughout their lives that Joseph Smith had been a polygamist.[11][12][13]

Later life

Alger then lived with relatives in Mayfield, Ohio until 1837, when she moved with her relatives to Indiana. There she married Solomon Custer, with whom she had nine children.[4] When asked, after Smith's death, about her relationship with him, she is reported to have said: "That is all a matter of my own, and I have nothing to communicate."[4]

Paternity testing of Orrison Smith

In 2005, Ugo Perego performed genetic research in an attempt to verify the paternity of several people alleged to be children of Joseph Smith through alleged plural wives. Orrison Smith, the first son of Fanny Alger, was found not to be Joseph Smith's son. Four other likely candidates were also ruled out. Presently genetic research has revealed no descendant of Joseph Smith through any woman other than his first and only publicly acknowledged legal wife, Emma Smith. Emma Smith bore Joseph nine children and his descendants through her number in the hundreds today.[14]

Footnotes

  1. ^ Johnson 1903 as quoted in Newell & Avery 1994, p. 66
  2. ^ Fanny Alger (Remembering)
  3. ^ Newell & Avery 1994, p. 66
  4. ^ a b c Fanny Alger (Wives)
  5. ^ Cowdery, Oliver
  6. ^ Review of Todd Compton, In Sacred Loneliness: The Plural Wives of Joseph Smith, Dialogue: A Journal of Mormon Thought 33 (Spring 2001): 184-186
  7. ^ Johnson 1947
  8. ^ Johnson 1903
  9. ^ Smith 2001, pp. 128, footnote 15
  10. ^ Church History, Volume 3, pp. 355-356
  11. ^ Times and Seasons 3 [August 1, 1842]: 869
  12. ^ Times and Seasons 3 [October 1, 1842]: 940
  13. ^ Emma Smith was a tireless public campaigner against polygamy and stated: "We raise our voices and hands against John C. Bennett's 'spiritual wife system', as a scheme of profligates to seduce women; and they that harp upon it, wish to make it popular for the convenience of their own cupidity; wherefore, while the marriage bed, undefiled is honorable, let polygamy, bigamy, fornication, adultery, and prostitution, be frowned out of the hearts of honest men to drop in the gulf of fallen nature". The document The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo, signed by Emma Smith as President of the Ladies' Relief Society, was published within the article Virtue Will Triumph, Nauvoo Neighbor, March 20, 1844. The Voice of Innocence from Nauvoo is also referred to in LDS History of the Church 6:236, 241
  14. ^ "DNA tests rule out 2 as Smith descendants", Carrie A. Moore, Deseret News, 10 November 2007.

References








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