Comments about ‘DNA solves a Joseph Smith mystery’

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Published: Saturday, July 9 2011 11:00 p.m. MDT

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Salt Lake City, UT

Again with Ms. Brodie in regards to her books on Jefferson and Smith, the difficulty is she presents the books as biographical-not historical fiction. She uses scurilous undocumented speculative sensational material in the books in the guise of fact or well accept understandings of the facts which they were not at the time of the writing of the books. Such effort does not aid the reader or the historian. It only adds to book sales, which seems to be the purpose. This from a professor of history is very disturbing. The comparison to Bushman is a very long reach. His work is meticulous in its documentation and research. Comparing Brodie, even though some of what she speculated is confirmed by Bushman, to Bushman is like comparing the writings of my 3-year old daughter to Shakespeare. (No offense to my daugther or Shakespeare).


It appears that some here are interpreting the DNA results as evidence that Joseph didn't have sexual relations with his wives. I think that is the wrong conclusion to make, since many of his wives made statements and even signed court affidavits indicating that they did in fact have sexual relations. It seems the more logical conclusion to be further investigated is that Joseph may have taken steps to prevent pregnancies with his polygamous wives. I'm not sure what the implications of that are, other than it would seem to run contrary to some of the teachings of allowing polygamy to raise up seed and whatnot.

Provo, UT

skeptic: No family histories are kept under lock and key. It is all open to anyone who wants to see it.

Littleton, CO

It appears that, insofar as anyone can determine thus far, Joseph Smith had NO children other than those borne by Emma. And even if he did, I am convinced that they would have been born in the New and Everlasting Covenant of Marriage (See D&C 132). Thus, in God's eyes they would have been Joseph's legitimate offspring, entitled to all the blessings that God offers, in this life and the next.
As a side note, there were numerous persons sealed to Joseph Smith after his death. This doctrine of "adoption" was later ended by the Church.

John Corrill
Independence, Mo

Michael De Groote: As long as you have Brodie's book handy, why not give the whole quote from p. 464 about what she said about Hancock? If I remember correctly (I don't have her book handy) she was doing a bit more than just reporting speculation. She seemed to be presenting an argument.

John Corrill: Your recollection would be incorrect. Perhaps you should scoot on down to the library and see what the book actually says - rather than relying on your readers to do your research - and then issue appropriate corrections to your article.

Michael De Groote: The point of the article was not to slam Brodie. I only mentioned her because she is the documentary source that many people rely upon in this matter.

John Corrill: Perhaps not, but the information in your article was incorrect and multiple reader comments castigated Brodie for "getting it wrong" when in fact, she did not.

Michael De Groote: She raised the question. Other historians writing about the same topic did not.

John Corrill: The women who were married to Joseph Smith were the ones who indicated they had children with Joseph Smith. Brodie was EXPLORING who the children MIGHT be.

Mission Viejo, CA

@Dixie Mike
DNA paternity tests require a sample of the parent's DNA. Apparently, Joseph Smith's DNA has been obtained (probably from a bloodstain). Then we can compare somebody's DNA and look for matching "markers".

Nobody has a sample of any of Lehi's family DNA. Therefore a match cannot be made. However, other DNA tests can be made on people to match origin in a broad way. DNA analysis did not identify a middle eastern origin of Native Americans, but did identify several distinct origin patterns. However, a colony of 10 or 20 Jews arriving and mixing with natives already there, would probably not leave a discernable DNA source.

DNA analysis does destroy the old Mormon myth that all Indians are descendants of Lehi. That the Lehites interbred with natives is clearly shown in Jacob, where he chides the people for their extra wives, etc. There would have been less than a hundred Lehites if the promised land were empty, so clearly Laman and Lemuel joined one tribe and the Nephites joined another. Jacob makes it clear that the term Nephite and Lamanite were political terms.

Big Lunch

I do not understand, that if it is understood and accepted that Joseph Smith practiced polygamy as a holy principal, and that stated purpose of that principal is to bear seed (D & C 132), why would we be so anxious to declare Joseph Smith as utterly failing in this capacity? Why are we equating the lack of these children existing as a defense of his moral character?

Phoenix, AZ

%Big Lunch: I agree with you, it is all very confusing; and if Joseph Smith took his other brothers wives as his plural wives would that not be denying his brothern that in the celestial kingdom that JS wanted for himself. That dosen't seem very brotherly.

Michael De Groote

The rest of what Brodie said about John Reed Hancock in her book:

Brodie Page 345: "Legend among the descendants of Levi W. Hancock points to another son of the prophet. If the legend is true, the child was probably John Reed Hancock, born April 19, 1841 in Nauvoo. Oddly, the next Hancock child, born considerably after Joseph Smith's death, was named Levison, as if to satisfy any doubt that Levi Hancock was in truth the father."

Mr. John Corrill at 12:19 a.m. July 11, 2011, posted only part of what Brodie had written. Here is the rest of what she wrote (after what John quoted) on Page 464:
"It is of some interest, however, to note that one of Levi Hancock's sons, born on June 9, 1845 in Nauvoo, was named Levison, as though to distinguish his parentage from that of a preceding son, born on april 19, 1841 and named John Reed Hancock. The latter might have been the child in question."

Thank you to a friend of mine who had Brodie's book handy and was kind enough to forward me these quotes.

Layton, UT

Interesting bit of research. I think a great deal of history,is more mythology than a factual representation of what happened. I agree that those with a specific agenda,seem to publish books on what they think happened, according to their own personal bias and political/religious agendas.
I personally am not threatened by any warts in the history of the LDS Church at all. Not coming from "pioneer stock", I don't see the pioneer history in any other light, than (in most cases) courageous actions of individuals seeking to better themselves and their families. Of course people are going to have "blights" in their lives,no one escapes that. How is leaving those things out of history helpful in the long run? It isn't. Just my opinion.
For the record, I don't believe for a second, that given the academic training of Joseph Smith and those who assisted him, that they could have of their own accord, come up with or produced the Book of Mormon. Sorry folks, they were NOT that smart or academically talented enough to commit such a fraud. Just don't see evidence of that at all.

Fort Knox, KY

Sharrona: What edition of the Doctrine and Covenants are you using?

Bakersfield, CA

It's so much easier to belong to religeous groups who don't have controversy surrounding the progeny, wives, doctrines and revelations of their founders: Who aren't hounded out of communities, states and territories for breaking civil and Biblical laws. Whose artifacts don't disappear, whose heavenly visitors hang around for an interview, whose motives aren't impugned...

Would love to interview Jesus, Mary, Peter/Shimon, Paul/Shaul, Daniel, Adam, Noah, Abraham, Jacob/Israel, Moses/Moshe, Mohammed and Joseph S. Only two in that group, however, claimed that polygamy was commanded by God. The others followed cultural or personal reasons. For New Testament and Book of Mormon believers, the issue was settled in the text and no DNA proof is needed. Would enjoy a De Groote article on that topic.

Dan Maloy
Enid, OK

We can fight against Joseph Smith, the Book of Mormon and the teachings of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints all we want, but it will only be to our own detriment.

The book is from God and Joseph Smith was called by our Divine Maker to be the mighty prophet to restore the Savior's gospel.

Praise to the man!

Manti, UT

Does it make a difference if Joseph Smith had children with his plural wives? He was commanded to practice it for the propagation of the saints at the time. This is not that unusual. Most prophets and kings in the old testament practiced it, like Solomon with his wives and even concubines. The Lord prospered these people and didn't condemn them. Even today in the Muslim world, they are allowed up to four wives. Joseph was obeying the Lord's commandment even if reluctantly.

Fawn Brodie was bound to write a book as "No Man Knows my History" because she had an anti-Mormon influences even in her home when growing up. Her mother was a strong closet anti-Mormon and she made comments which Brodie used in her book. Eventually her mother left the Church, so Brodie had her justification for writing the book.

You can believe what you want about Joseph Smith, but the truth is so apparent in the way he translated the BOM and how the religion itself is growing. I think the best proof of its truthfulness is the quality and the holiness of the people who truly live the Gospel.

Sugar City, ID

We can speculate all we want about the nature of Joseph Smith's relationships with his wives. All we know for sure is that Emma bore 9 children and they were all his children and none of the other wives did. None of us knows personally any of the people involved and to try to attach any kind of improper or immoral behavior to any of the people involved is unfair to them since they can't defend themselves.

Salt Lake City, UT

... breaking news from a 'mormon research firm'...(Sorenson) after reviewing this story... there are many unanswered questions about 'flawed research' and criteria... For years people have beein trying to discredit Ms. Brodie. Here research has proven flawless. I think there needs to be an outside firm to 'confirm' biased findings...

Phoenix, AZ

%Serenity, I like your post, but I have heard the story told a little differently. I heard Fawn Brodie was related to presidend Mckay and she was commissioned by the church to write the book for the church centenial. It was her's and the church's thought that the book would be a compliment to the church and Brodie. However, when she did her research for the book she learned the truth was different than the church's version and being an honest author she wrote the truth as revealed by the facts rather than the church's wish for faith promoting fiction. This caused her friction with the church and the loss of her membership. I think the Palmer story is some what similar. I hope if this story in incorrect that you will correct it. Thx.

Salt Lake, UT

First off I'd like to know how they created the genetic profile of Joseph Smith-if there was any inaccuracy in that then the whole analysis is meaningless.

Also as I understand it there were few polygamous wives who claimed that Joseph Smith was the father of their children and the most prominent claim was a daughter-which the article makes clear is difficult to confirm and has not yet been tested.

Last Fawn Brodie, though she perhaps speculated too much, has proven to be ahead of her time. Much of what she wrote is now accepted by LDS and non-LDS scholars alike as the likely story of Joseph Smith. What is sad is that the Church she belonged to felt so threatened by the truth that they took such firm action against her.

DR Hampton
Portage, MI

First, I believe Joseph Smith to be a prophet of God. I believe God required him to reinstitute polygamy likely beginning in Kirtland. I don't understand why polyandry was part of this, but it's not a problem for me. There is credible evidence that some of his plural relationships included sexual relations.
Second, this set of comments has become a forum on Fawn Brodie's trustworthiness as a historian, not really the subject of the article upon which we are commenting. I believe she was a tabloid historian, particularly interested in prurient and controversial hidden stories in prominent people's lives. If you read her article Hidden Presidents: Looking through their memoirs for involuntary truth, Harper's, April 1977, pp. 61-76, you will find her strong allegation that Abraham Lincoln was responsible for the death of his mother (p. 71). Fawn Brodie did get many things right in her book about Joseph Smith, but what she got wrong about Joseph Smith and Abraham Lincoln and... was their underlying goodness and their important God-given roles in human history. It's good that she didn't write a biography of the prophet Abraham using her Freudian approach to history. Duane

Michael De Groote

VocalLocal | 8:16 a.m. July 12, 2011
"I'd like to know how they created the genetic profile of Joseph Smith"

The DNA profile is of Joseph Smith's Y Chromosome. Unlike autosomal DNA (that's the bulk of DNA that is shuffled 50/50 between a mom and dad everytime they have a kid), the Y Chromosome is virtually unchanged as is passes from father to son to grandson, etc.

To get Joseph Smith's Y Chromosome, they took DNA samples from many of his known male descendants and from his brother Hyrum's male descendants. They should all have the same Y chromosome DNA -- which would be the same as Joseph's and Joseph Smith Sr's. So they are able to get the exact profile the same as if he gave a sample himself.

The original motivation to get the profile was to trace the Smith family DNA back to England to see if they could solve missing info. in his genealogy, not to learn about possible children.

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